Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Missing From Trump's Speech

by Noor Al-Sibai

While watching President Donald Trump's first address to Congress since taking office in January, people online have noticed that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn't attend the president's speech. Her absence isn't much of a surprise — ahead of Trump's speech, a court spokeswoman told Bloomberg that Justice Ginsburg didn't plan on attending the address. In Ginsburg's absence, the nation's highest court is represented by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. She's not alone in her absence, however — Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito are both absent as well, as per their past history of not attending presidential addresses. Alito has been famously absent from every State of the Union since 2010, when President Barack Obama criticized the court's controversial Citizens United ruling.

Ginsburg absence is felt particularly hard due to the justice's regular embraces of President Obama after his State of the Union-style speeches. While Ginsburg was clearly fond of Obama, she isn't a fan of Trump — last June, Ginsburg called Trump a "faker". She expounded on her comments during an interview with CNN:

He really has an ego. ... How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.

Following Ginsburg's comments, Trump took to his favorite medium to express his displeasure with the justice by saying the longtime justice's "mind is shot," that she is "embarrassing," and should resign. There's clearly no lost love between Trump and the Bill Clinton-appointed justice.

Despite the solid political reasoning behind her absence, Ginsburg's lack of attendance at the speech may signal to some Republicans that she intends to step down from the bench, leaving open yet another spot for a Trump-appointed justice. Speculation about Ginsburg staying on the bench was already underway when a conservative satire site re-published Ginsburg's joking comments from last July that she would leave the country if Trump was elected. She elaborated on her comments in the New York Times interview that printed the initial quote by saying that if her late husband Martin had still been alive, he'd have suggested they move to New Zealand. The satirical story was then picked up by right-wing fake news sites and re-purposed as straight-ahead news, causing some concern that the justice would indeed resign.

Ginsburg is as entitled to not attend Trump's first address as the other two justices who are absent, and she is equally entitled to express her opinions about the president. Here's hoping her term will extend at least through Trump's term.