Justice Ginsburg to Egyptians: 'I would not look to the U.S. Constitution'; AP, NYT Ignore

February 4th, 2012 10:35 AM

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on a trip underwritten by the U.S. State Department (aren't justices expected to keep their distances from the government to protect their perceived impartiality?), was in Egypt on Wednesday at a Cairo University law school seminar. While there, according to the Associated Press's Mark Sherman, she told students that (in Sherman's words) "she was inspired by last year's protests that led to the end of Hosni Mubarak's regime" and to speak to them (in her words) "during this exceptional transitional period to a real democratic state." The news that Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist parties now control about 75% of the seats in the country's parliament seems not to have registered with Ginsburg or Sherman -- or, for that matter, the State Department.

Sherman's AP story failed to note what Ms. Ginsburg said about the U.S. Constitution in an Egyptian TV interview, as did virtually all of the rest of the establishment press. ABC's Ariane de Vogue is currently the most notable exception, but as readers will see, she clearly buried the lede. Here are key paragraphs from her report (the related video is at Hot Air; the relevant portion begins at the 9:28 mark; bolds are mine):

Ginsburg Likes S. Africa as Model for Egypt

Amid fresh clashes in Egypt, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo has posted an Alhayat TV interview of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

... “It is a very inspiring time, that you have overthrown a dictator, and that you are striving to achieve a genuine democracy,” the U.S. Supreme Court associate justice says. “So I think people in the United States are hoping that this transition will work, and that there will genuinely be a government of, by, and for the people.” She says that after meeting with the head of the election commission, she was pleased to see that the recent elections in Parliament’s lower chamber were considered free and fair.

... Asked by the English-speaking interviewer whether she thought Egypt should use the Constitutions of other countries as a model, Ginsburg said Egyptians should be “aided by all Constitution-writing that has gone on since the end of World War II.”

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the Constitution of South Africa,” says Ginsburg, whom President Clinton nominated to the court in 1993. “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 U.S. Constitution.”Ginsburg, who spent her career before taking the bench advocating for gender equality, praised

the U.S. Constitution and the founders, saying, “we were just tremendously fortunate in the U.S. that the men that met in Philadelphia were very wise.” But “it’s true that they were lacking one thing, that is there were no women as part of the Constitutional Convention, but there were women around who sparked the idea.”

Ginsburg said “we are still forming the more perfect union” and noted that “when the Constitution was new in the 1780s, we still had slavery in the U.S.”

Historians with deeper knowledge than yours truly can perhaps enlighten us all as to who these women were who "sparked the idea" of America's Constitution, and without whom we apparently would never have had one.

A Google News search at 9:30 this morning Eastern Time on "Ruth Bader Ginsburg constitution" covering the past week (not in quotes, sorted by date, with duplicates) returned 120 results, the vast majority of which were Sherman's report carried at different AP outlets. Of the roughly eight remaining results besides de Vogue's ABC report, only one story at the International Business Times might arguably be considered a mainstream media report.

Of the others, the reaction from the Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver is noteworthy: "Justice Ginsburg failed to respect the authority of the document that it is her duty to protect. When given the opportunity to promote American liberty abroad, Justice Ginsburg did just the opposite and pointed Egypt in the direction of progressivism and the liberal agenda." Good point, especially since South Africa's constitution, as Hot Air's Allahpundit observes, "includes welfare-state guarantees like the right to housing and the right to health care." I would also bet against the idea that South Africa's constitution has anything like our Second Amendment. If no such provision is there, Justice Ginsburg, based on her position in the Heller vs. DC case, would consider that a feature, and not a bug.

The reaction of lefty David Weigel at Slate ("Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Banal Point, Destroys the Republic") is a predictable straw man argument: "I don't see how you could argue the opposite -- all transitional democracies should start with the Constitution we wrote in 1787! -- unless you're writing a Toby Keith song or something." It's as if Weigel doesn't really believe that the amendments passed since the original Constitution was drafted aren't even part of it.

The New York Times, based on the results an advanced search on the justice's name which shows no stories about her during the past week, at least has the lame excuse that it didn't cover Ginsburg's visit at all.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.