Bench Memos

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Parsing Ginsburg’s Words


Did Ginsburg propose to abolish Mother’s Day? Or did she merely propose that abolition of Mother’s Day be considered?

Again, here is exactly what Ginsburg proposed–in a section titled “Recommendations”:

Replacing “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day” with a “Parents’ Day” should be considered, as an observance more consistent with a policy of minimizing traditional sex-based differences in parental roles.
A couple readers have written to suggest that a careful parsing of her language supports only the latter proposition. I won’t dispute that the language may permit this slightly narrower reading, but, for the following reasons, I don’t think that’s the most natural or sensible reading:

1. Ginsburg’s language is included under a heading titled “Recommendations.” I don’t think that she is calling for legislation to require people to consider abolishing Mother’s Day.

2. In context, it is clear that Ginsburg regards Mother’s Day as inconsistent “with a policy of minimizing traditional sex-based differences in parental roles.” The very point of her report was to recommend legislative changes to effect this policy.

3. If someone were to write, say, that “Killing Frenchmen should be considered,” I don’t think that the most natural reading of that proposition is that the writer is neutral on it.

That said, those who want to argue that Ginsburg merely proposed considering the abolition of Mother’s Day (as if that’s a much more modest proposal) are welcome to do so–so long, of course, as they strive to maintain the same unnatural standard of punctiliousness in summarizing the views of those with whom they disagree.

The larger point remains unaffected: By any measure, Ginsburg, at the time of her nomination, had expressed extremist views that placed her at the leftist fringe of American society and, as a justice, has continued that course. Yet notwithstanding views that were far more out of the “mainstream” than even the grossest caricatures of the most vilified of President Bush’s nominees, Ginsburg was confirmed to the Supreme Court, by a 96-3 vote, a mere six weeks after her nomination. And the Left still pretends that she is in the mainstream.


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