Comments made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her recent “listening tour” of Egypt have sparked controversy here in the U.S.
Asked what models Egyptian officials should consult in drafting the country’s new founding legal document, Ginsburg replied:
“You should certainly be aided by all the constitution-writing that has gone one since the end of World War II. I would not look to the US constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary… It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the US constitution – Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It dates from 1982. You would almost certainly look at the European Convention on Human Rights. Yes, why not take advantage of what there is elsewhere in the world?”
Immediately conservative outlets seized upon the remarks, claiming the Justice was traveling the world bad-mouthing her nation’s founding document. Conservative bloggers, like Redstate.com’s Daniel Horowitz, went so far as to suggest that Ginsburg was “disqualified from serving on any court.”
But others jumped to Ginsburg’s defense – even Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who admittedly is “not a fan of Ginsburg’s jurisprudence.”
“I find her too left-leaning and too inclined to see the Constitution as an ‘evolving’ document that can be interpreted in the light of foreign law. … But to accuse her of insulting the Constitution or being ‘mealy mouthed’ in its defense is absurd,” Jacoby wrote.
Jacoby said that the justice’s remarks – like the remarks of many public figures in today’s hyper-politically-charged climate – were taken out of context my those who claims she is anti-Constitution.
“As anyone watching the full Ginsburg interview can see, she went out of her way to praise the US system,” Jacoby wrote. “She extolled the Framers of 1787 as ‘very wise,’ and explained how the Constitutional architecture — separation of powers, checks and balances, judicial independence, amendability — has secured the blessings of liberty for generations of Americans. ‘We have the oldest written constitution still in force in the world,’ she said proudly, ‘and it starts with three words: “We, the people.”’”