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This grindstone’s wearing me


American democracy is walking on a wire:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Friday night after experiencing chills and fever earlier in the day, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said on Saturday.

Justice Ginsburg was initially evaluated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington before being transferred to Johns Hopkins for further evaluation and treatment of any possible infection, the spokeswoman, Kathleen Arberg, said in a statement.

Justice Ginsburg’s symptoms abated after treatment with intravenous antibiotics and fluids, Ms. Arberg said, adding the justice expected to be released from the hospital as early as Sunday morning.

Justice Ginsburg, 86, has had a series of health scares lately, including surgery for lung cancer and radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer in the last year. Over the years, Justice Ginsburg has also had surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009 and treatment for colon cancer in 1999.

I won’t fully revisit the “should Ginsburg and Breyer have retired between 2009 and 2013?” [SPOILER: Yes] argument again. But one thing worth noting is that I don’t think anybody can seriously dispute that Ginsburg and Breyer are acting strategically now — that is, that they would only leave office to leave a vacancy to Donald Trump if it was literally impossible for them to do their jobs. (It’s also very hard to believe that giving her ongoing health issues as she pushes 90 Ginsburg would still be on the Court had Hillary Clinton won with a Democratic Senate majority.) Which…pretty much settles the opening question in itself. “Supreme Court justices should just ignore who would nominate their replacement when deciding when to retire” would be at least be a coherent principle, although 1)doesn’t reflect actual practice and 2)requires some combination of deep denial or indifference about the nature and consequences of the job. But there’s no possible coherent defense for the proposition that it’s acceptable for Supreme Court justices to do everything they can to avoid being replaced by a president from the opposing party, but not acceptable for a justice to retire to ensure that they’re replaced by a congenial president.

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