Justice Ginsburg to Egypt: Don’t look at the U.S. Constitution for inspiration
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Bill Clinton appointee, recently gave an interview to Egyptian television, in which she addressed the very important topic of a constitution for the post-Mubarak government. The Middle East Media Research Institute dutifully posted a transcript of her remarks.
Things go fairly well during the Ginsburg interview at first, although she does make a point of describing the United States as a young country with “a rather old constitution.” Liberal dreams are forever haunted by images of old men in powdered wigs scratching quill pens across parchment, and foolishly drawing boundaries around a glorious future they couldn’t possibly understand.
Ginsburg did a good job of explaining the importance of a strong Constitution:
Let me say first that a constitution, as important as it is, will mean nothing unless the people are yearning for liberty and freedom. If the people don’t care, then the best constitution in the world won’t make any difference. So the spirit of liberty has to be in the population, and then the constitution – first, it should safeguard basic fundamental human rights, like our First Amendment, the right to speak freely, and to publish freely, without the government as a censor.
Say, maybe those old farts in powdered wigs got some things right after all! Could it be that some of those self-evident truths and inalienable rights actually transcend the relentless march of technological progress?
No such luck, you Constitution-loving wingnuts! Ginsburg taught the Egyptians that Tommy Jeff and his old-school crew had nothing on the guys who wrote the magnificent, oh-so-modern constitutions of South Africa and Canada:
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?
That’s an awful lot of concentrated ignorance for one Supreme Court justice. Just for starters, the Canadians most certainly are not devoted to “the right to speak freely, and to publish freely, without the government as a censor.” Just ask popular conservative author Mark Steyn about that. He fought a multi-year struggle against power-mad Canadian censors, which featured accusations that he committed hate speech by accurately quoting Muslims. MacLean’s magazine was hauled before the Orwellian speech courts for excerpting Steyn’s book America Alone, which Canada wanted to ban outright. A Canadian stand-up comedian was ruined by the Speech Police because some lesbian hecklers complained about the insensitive language he used when responding to them.
The last thing an Egyptian populace struggling for freedom from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood needs to hear is a paean from a fashionable liberal about ultramodern state charters that enshrine the use of compulsive force in the service of leftist “positive rights,” such as the right not to be offended. Ginsburg may not have noticed, but the more fervent Muslims trying to turn Egypt into a theocracy are very good at becoming offended, and they love the notion of using compulsive force to remove the objects of their ire.
On the contrary, the Egyptians could use exactly the kind of timeless and powerful ideals laid out by the brilliant framers of the United States Constitution, a document written precisely to thwart the ambitions of “reformers” who think utopia is just a few trampled individual rights away.
They could also stand to hear a robust endorsement of American ideals from someone who actually loves and understands this country, not a mealy-mouthed half-hearted squeak from someone who dwells on our failures, and admires the rest of the world for being so much more enlightened than we are. The darker forces battling for the soul of Egypt will not be hesitant in advancing their ideals. They won’t waste any time talking about the deficiencies of their ancient laws, or suggesting the Egyptian people look around the world for more advanced upgrades to their timeless ideals.
The clash of civilizations taking place in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” is going to end up coming down to Osama bin Laden’s famous formulation about how people prefer strong horses over weak ones. The cause of liberty does not sit easily upon a weak horse like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. No one will be terribly impressed by her ignorant equivocations and weak-sauce apologetics.
Meanwhile, those Americans who recoil from the idea of a Supreme Court populated by people who are willing to express such casual contempt for the U.S. Constitution before foreign audiences should remember that electing Democrats to the White House means you’re absolutely guaranteed to get more of the same.