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Opinion: Picking Kamala Harris makes history, but will it make a difference in November?

(CNN)Commentators weigh in on Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris for his running mate. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. Harris brings Biden a direct link to the party’s African-American base, reflecting his team’s strategy of generating excitement and high turnout in Black communities. Four years ago, the Democratic ticket lost…

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Opinion: Picking Kamala Harris makes history, but will it make a difference in November?

(CNN)Commentators weigh in on Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris for his running mate. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. Harris brings Biden a direct link to the party’s African-American base, reflecting his team’s strategy of generating excitement and high turnout in Black communities. Four years ago, the Democratic ticket lost Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and with them, the White House — by a scant 80,000 votes. As operatives pointed out at the time, slightly higher Black voter turnout in Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia would have brought victory to the Democrats. The party is taking no chances this time: Biden’s headquarters is in Philadelphia and the Democratic convention, pre-coronavirus, was supposed to take place in Milwaukee. Harris also brings a connection to a politically potent, largely overlooked Indian-American community that has produced successful candidates throughout the nation. Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley were both elected Republican governors of Louisiana and South Carolina, respectively, and the current mayors of Hoboken, New Jersey, Anaheim, California, San Antonio, Texas are all of Indian descent. If elected, Harris would be the most prominent and powerful representative of this community. At a time when demands for racial justice and inclusion are surging, Harris can speak with experience and authority about balancing the need for change with the core requirement of maintaining public safety. Attacks from leftist activists on her record as a tough prosecutor will likely fall flat. Harris comes across in public as pleasant, earnest and fair: Trying to accuse her of being pro-incarceration will sound like nonsense to most voters.She is fearsome in debate and comfortable on television, two skills that will come in handy in a race that will largely be fought on small screens rather than at huge outdoor rallies. Errol Louis is the host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel.Frida Ghitis: A running mate to inspire even RepublicansJoe Biden made precisely the right choice with Sen. Kamala Harris, a passionate, eloquent, inspiring figure with the potential to do everything a presidential candidate needs from his running mate.To make his decision Biden, the former vice president and soon-to-be Democratic nominee, had to contend with competing demands. Pick someone who could help him win the election through campaigning prowess, or someone who can help him govern and is ready to take over if needed? Someone who would energize progressive Democrats, or someone who could appeal to the party’s centrists? Someone who would boost turnout among Democrats, or someone who can lure disaffected Republicans?The choice was obvious. As if by magic, Harris manages to meet all those seemingly-conflicting qualifications. She is a centrist, like Biden. They share an overall philosophy, which is the most important criterion for choosing a potential successor. But most left-of-center progressives, despite some inevitable complaints, will find her an irresistible choice. She is a woman of color, with roots in Africa, India, the Caribbean. Her mother was born in India, her father in Jamaica. That means she is an American through and through; like pretty much all of us the product of immigration.She would become the first woman vice president and she also has a very good shot at becoming president, not only because of Biden’s age, but because she is now the automatic choice for his successor.Some will object to her track record as a tough public prosecutor. But that prosecutorial background deals a devastating blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to claim the Democrats are soft on crime.Ignore the sexists. They already accused her of being “too ambitious.” Feel free to laugh at that charge: What politician is not ambitious? What Senator is not ambitious? Name one person who has run for high office who did aspire to have an impact, even to change the world. How many in Congress have dreamed of the presidency? Some thought Biden would rule her out because she hit him too hard during the presidential debates. But Biden was probably impressed. Kamala is a brilliant debater, a fighter. She can spar with the best of them. She delicately shredded Justice Brett Kavanaugh with her questioning during his confirmation hearings.The debate with Vice President Mike Pence will be must-see TV. Democrats, as if they needed more motivation than getting rid of Trump, will rally behind her. And those Republicans questioning their party’s choice — except for the most sexist and racist among them — will find it tempting to back Team Biden-Harris 2020.Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. Follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis. Scott Jennings: The problem with choosing Kamala HarrisWhen I think of Kamala Harris, a comment about her by an African American voter in Michigan sticks with me: “She’s fake. She’s phony. She’s not one of us. She built a political career by over-prosecuting Black kids,” Brandi Neal, an employee at Detroit City Hall, told Politico. That sentiment may explain why Senator Harris’ presidential campaign was a short ride. In my view, several primary rivals like Bernie Sanders outlasted her because their authenticity was perceived to be far greater. But winning the vote of one person – Joe Biden, in this case – was easier than winning the millions of votes necessary to be the nominee herself.Harris was the safe choice for a campaign that is playing it safe. The Biden camp thinks it is sitting on a lead so it took the safest route – a basically vetted person who will neither help nor hurt the Democratic campaign.Most research shows that VP choices rarely make a difference. Harris probably won’t, either. Her home state is safely Democratic. Her primary campaign shows she’s not a great fundraiser. Her politics – liberal with more than a hint of authoritarianism (think of her attempts to get Donald Trump banned from Twitter) sprinkled in for good measure – fit well on a national ticket trending hard towards both. Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY. Tara Setmayer: Biden-Harris is the best choice for disaffected conservativesFrom the beginning of his campaign, Joe Biden has made it clear that we are in a fight for the soul of America. He needed to find a partner in that fight — now he has California Sen. Kamala Harris. Throughout his career, Biden’s most trusted advisers have been smart, strong women, from his wife Dr. Jill Biden to his sister Valerie Biden Owens, who has played a central role in every campaign throughout her brother’s political career. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Biden would choose a woman who exhibits those same characteristics as his running mate. Harris’s prowess as a formidable questioner and debater should send chills down Vice President Mike Pence’s spine. The vice presidential debate in the fall is going to be must-see television. Although Harris’ prosecutorial skills have served her well in the political arena, her record as a prosecutor could also become a liability. Within minutes of Biden’s historic announcement, the Trump campaign and their surrogates telegraphed their attack strategy against the newly minted campaign duo as out of step with the Black community’s current calls for police and criminal justice reform.It’s clear the Trump campaign will use Harris’s prosecutorial record and Biden’s sponsorship of the infamous 1994 crime bill as wedge issues to depress the black vote in crucial swing states. Harris and Biden must be fully prepared to assuage any voter concerns those issues may cause. They can’t afford to make the same mistakes Hillary Clinton’s campaign made in 2016.As the country continues to reel from the tragic impact of a deadly pandemic, economic distress and racial division, the American people now have a clear choice in this 2020 presidential election.Unlike Trump, Biden is competent, compassionate and battle tested through tragedy. With Harris at his side as a happy warrior with a powerful personal story of her own, the contrast couldn’t be any starker. Biden-Harris is everything Trump-Pence is not. Despite the policy differences many of us disaffected conservatives may have, the Biden-Harris ticket presents the best prescription to defeat the existential threat Trump poses to our democratic norms, institutions and ideals come Nov. 3. Tara Setmayer is a former GOP communications director, host of the “Honestly Speaking with Tara” podcast, a Harvard Institute of Politics 2020 Resident Fellow and a CNN political contributor. She is a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project. Follow her on Twitter @tarasetmayer. David Gergen: Picking Harris shows Biden’s good judgmentIn selecting the first woman of color to serve on a national ticket, Joe Biden has not only made an historic choice, but also made an important and wise choice for the future of the presidency. Biden found several qualities in Kamala Harris that made her an appealing selection. He made clear from the start, for example, that he wanted a running mate who would be a trustworthy partner in the West Wing — a veep whose working relationship would resemble the one he had with President Barack Obama. Harris seems well placed to play that role.Biden had also promised he would name a woman to the ticket.And, in recent weeks, activists in the party have made clear they wanted a woman of color. Harris, of course, fills that role — but she brings an added benefit: When President Donald Trump goes after Harris, he will have a hard time convincing anybody she is a radical. Like Biden himself, she has always been considered more of a centrist in Democratic circles.But from my perspective, there is even more reason why Harris is a good choice: Among the women of color under consideration, she is clearly the most qualified to become President. In this election, that matters.Of the country’s 15 vice presidents since World War II, no less than 5 have eventually become president. That means that if history holds, a Vice President Harris would have a one-in-three chance to become a future President. The fact that Biden went for a running mate who could take over on day one reflects well on both his judgment and his respect for the office. David Gergen has been a White House adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, in addition to being a senior political analyst at CNN. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he founded the Center for Public Leadership.Patti Solis Doyle: Kamala Harris will help change how we view and treat women in politics foreverWhen the race is over and history has been made, Joe Biden will need a partner. He chose Kamala Harris because of her skill, her judgment, and her experience as a legislator, a prosecutor and a politician. Harris’ gender and her race are icing on a very formidable cake — and, for a woman of color like me, it just might be the most delicious icing ever whipped up. As the head of VP operations for the Barack Obama/Biden campaign in 2008, I got to watch Biden win, learn and excel at the vice presidential role. Here’s the thing: No one knows more about what is needed in a vice president than Biden — and no one knows more about the kind of support and trust a vice president deserves. He wanted to be Obama’s partner—to be the last voice in the room before then-President Obama made the most difficult decisions. That is the vice president he was, and that is what he wants in his own—a partner who can help him as he manages multiple crises on multiple fronts — a global health crisis, an economic crisis, an education crisis and a climate crisis.By selecting Harris, Biden has made history: the first Black and first Indian American woman on a national ticket. She is transformational, and she will energize the base. And, if they win, she will help change how we view and how we treat women in politics forever.Patti Solis Doyle, a CNN commentator, was an assistant to the President and senior adviser to then-first lady Hillary Clinton, was chief of staff on Clinton’s 2000 and 2006 Senate campaigns, and Clinton’s presidential campaign manager in 2007 and early 2008. She is president of Solis Strategies, a Washington-based consulting firm that specializes in serving nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations and corporations. Follow her @pattisolisdoyle.Alice Stewart: A Biden-Harris ticket will not lure in independentsOn paper, Joe Biden made a wise move in choosing California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice president. Biden’s former challenger brings diversity, youth and energy to the Democratic ticket. As the first Black vice presidential nominee for a major party, Harris is also a historic pick and checks the female box that Biden promised back in March. On top of all that, Harris has the necessary leadership experience to step into the top job if needed, having served at the local, state and federal level in positions of power.That said, some may be surprised that after her brutal attack against Biden in an early primary debate, she was even considered for the number two position. Clearly, the Biden campaign let bygones be bygones. After all, that’s politics. Candidates duke it out in the primary, and then join forces in the general election. However, mark my words, while Democrats may be able to bury that hatchet, the Trump campaign will make sure the Biden-Harris divisions are front and center. Video of Harris attacking Biden for opposing forced busing as a means to integrating schools in the 1970s will play over and over and over — until November. And President Donald Trump will continue to say, as he did just after the announcement, that Harris was “nasty” and “disrespectful” to Biden. As for the historic nature of a Black running mate, I don’t see that moving the needle. A majority of Black voters already support Democrats — and likely would have with or without Harris on the ticket. It’s the independent voters who matter, and it’s unlikely these voters will be persuaded by a game of identity politics, especially when a Biden-Harris ticket is the most progressive presidential ticket in modern history. While independents are a mixed bag of political views, they will likely not embrace all the progressive policies that the Democrats are championing this election cycle.So, while this week will be a high point in the Biden presidential campaign, when the confetti settles, reality will sink in. And independent voters, as well as much of mainstream America, will have a tough time supporting the Biden-Harris agenda. Joe Lockhart: Good choice… but the election is still about Trump Bottom line, Joe Biden hit a home run picking Kamala Harris as his running mate. She is smart, tough, a former prosecutor who can take it to Trump/Pence. All of those things matter, but her race makes this both a historic pick, as a Black woman who would be a heartbeat away from the Oval and as an affirmation of just how important Black voters and women are to Democrats in 2020.There will be plenty of talk about why Biden didn’t give a nod to the Bernie Sanders voters in the party, and Elizabeth Warren supporters no doubt will be disappointed. But Biden won the nomination by garnering more support among women and Black voters than any other candidate. In the end, he earned the right to pick the woman he was most comfortable with.The Vice Presidential pick has not had much of an impact on a Presidential race since 1960, when John Kennedy selected Lyndon B. Johnson who delivered Texas and the White House . But this year, in my view, it will matter even less. This election is about one, and only one, person — Donald Trump. His gross mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic carnage that has come as a result of his lack of leadership, makes this campaign a referendum on his presidency. Harris is a great addition to the Biden team. But Biden/Harris will win in November because they offer hope that government can and will work for the people again — and Trump will be relegated to the annals of the worst Presidents in our history.Joe Lockhart was White House press secretary from 1998-2000 in President Bill Clinton’s administration. He co-hosts the podcast “Words Matter.”Raul Reyes: The vice presidential debate between Harris and Pence will be epicJoe Biden has been clear about what he was looking for in a vice president. He has said that he wants someone with strengths that complement his own, who is willing to challenge him and who is prepared for the presidency on Day One. He wants to feel “simpatico” with his vice president. These criteria are more than met in his historic selection of Kamala Harris. Harris is an outstanding pick for vice president for several reasons. She has been a presidential candidate, so she already has a high public profile. This matters because the presidential campaign will take place in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic — meaning there will be few rallies, large events or opportunities for Harris to introduce herself to voters (the convention may well be largely virtual). Her experience as a candidate for the nomination means that she has been through the press vetting and scrutiny that come with being in the national spotlight. Plus, Harris being on the ticket will energize key Democratic constituencies in battleground states. She can be expected to help drive turnout in African American voters, particularly African American women. That Harris comes from California is important, as this state is a microcosm of the 21st century United States. She knows how to connect to and support communities of color. And she has been vocal on how to do so, despite being criticized for her criminal justice record while she was the district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California. Consider that as attorney general and senator, Harris advocated for DACA. As senator, she co-authored a bill on police reform Latinos and immigrants can also take heart that a “Vice President Harris” will likely be a champion of immigrants. Her father emigrated from Jamaica to the US and her mother emigrated from India, so Harris has firsthand experience of what it means to seek the American dream. If Biden made a safe choice in picking Harris, who has been favored by voters in polls, he also made a smart choice. Harris’ questioning of Brett Kavanaugh, William Barr, and John Kelly during Senate hearings have ably demonstrated her sharp intellect. Expect the October vice presidential debate between Harris and Mike Pence to be epic. Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes.Jen Psaki: The only reaction Democrats should have to HarrisThe only reaction Democrats should have to Joe Biden picking Kamala Harris for his running mate is a warm embrace of his new running mate. Harris is not only a historic pick, as the first Black and Asian American woman to be on a national ticket for either party, but she is young, tough as nails (just ask Attorney General Bill Barr, or Biden for that matter) and prepared to do the job on day one. Typically, there are only three big moments during a campaign when this choice matters. First, the day it is announced. The Biden team deserves high praise for rolling out the choice without leaks, inaccurate reporting and on a timeline that worked for them.In addition to the element of surprise, they will have another chance with the official announcement on Wednesday, when Biden and Harris will appear together to announce their candidacy. Then, it will likely dominate news coverage for the next 48-hours, which is a great boost for them considering how hard it is to break through the President Donald Trump show.The second moment is the Democratic National Convention next week. Harris’ speech will be her chance to re-introduce herself to a national audience. We will hear about her biography, and hopefully we will hear more about her career as a prosecutor. Her law enforcement record has been picked apart, and that will continue, but she has a high-profile opportunity to talk about her record from a position of strength, describing how her experiences have impacted her positions today.The third moment is the vice presidential debate in October. Vice President Mike Pence won’t even dine alone with a woman. Now the most important night of his year will be spent debating one.My bet is Harris will have more moments than the traditional three. But beyond 2020, Biden’s pick also tells us something about the future of the Democratic Party. A Black woman is now the safe pick for running mate. Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is the founder of Evergreen Consulting. Follow her at @jrpsaki. Charlie Dent: Harris brings enthusiasm to Biden campaignJoe Biden has announced his long-awaited vice presidential selection, and no one should be surprised it is California Sen. Kamala Harris. On a personal note, I’m very happy for Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, who is a friend and trusted colleague of mine at the law firm of DLA Piper.Biden’s selection of Harris is both safe and smart for a variety of reasons. Among the women under consideration, Harris has been battle tested and better vetted through the presidential primary than all the others (with the possible exception of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren). Harris’ history as a prosecutor caused many far-left Democrats to view her experience during the Democratic presidential primary as a liability. Not anymore. With the primary over, it’s all about persuading centrist and disaffected Trump voters to support Biden. During a time of social unrest and increasing crime rates in many major American cities, prosecutorial experience is a huge asset against President Donald Trump, who seeks the “law and order” mantle. Expect the Biden campaign to emphasize Harris’ credentials in its messaging. Additionally, Harris possesses key attributes for constituencies important to the Democratic Party: women, Black Americans and people of South Asian heritage. African American women will no doubt be among the most excited by Harris, as she will be the first woman of color on a national ticket in American history. College educated and suburban women, too, will likely find Harris a very appealing candidate. She will help Democrats build upon their strength with these constituencies and inflict further damage to Republicans whose support has been collapsing uncontrollably among these women since Trump’s election. Finally, Harris represents a fresh face and possesses a next generational appeal that Biden does not. Democrats can fall in love with Harris much like they did with previously successful young Democrats, like John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Let’s face it, she’ll give Biden a needed boost in the enthusiasm department. The only downside to the Harris nomination is that she does not bring Democrats a state they didn’t already have — Biden’s victory in California was already in the bag. Harris’ foreign policy experience could be challenged, but foreign policy plays well to Biden’s strength. Game on.Charlie Dent is a former Republican US congressman from Pennsylvania who served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee from 2015 until 2016 and chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies from 2015 until 2018. He is a CNN political commentator. Julian Zelizer: Biden’s Harris pick should worry Trump Joe Biden made an extremely strong pick. In this case, the safe choice is a bold choice. This selection will light up the ticket. Senator Kamala Harris offers an important mix: she is a candidate with a track record showing she can govern and a skillful campaigner. During the Democratic primaries, the former prosecutor showed she can deliver a tough verbal punch. She also has extensive experience as a public servant in California and Washington. Biden knows the importance of a running mate who would be able to help him lead in Washington after the responsibilities that he himself was given under the Obama administration. And if there are concerns about whether the vice president would be able to step into the role of president should that be necessary—Senator Harris will allay them. Through this choice, Biden sends the message that his administration would be committed to serious governance—a stark contrast with the chaos that has been on display every day in the Oval Office under President Donald Trump. The selection of a Black woman will offer more evidence to voters that Democrats aim to be a party that represents the pluralistic and diverse character of our nation in 2020 rather than some reactionary throwback to the nineteenth century. She will help Biden ensure that turnout is as strong as possible in every segment of the Democratic electorate. To be sure, there are elements of her past that will be controversial, such as her record on criminal justice reform while working in California. Biden and the Democrats have candidates who lack a very strong record on one of the most urgent questions of our times—criminal justice reform. Harris won’t instantly assuage concerns over Biden’s role in the passage of the 1994 crime bill, signed by President Bill Clinton and blamed by many for leading to mass incarceration. But she has the opportunity to turn this to her advantage if she demonstrates a genuine commitment to changing the way the nation polices and imprisons. She can deliver this message as someone who has been “tough on crime” and understands the legal process better than most. Like Biden, she will be difficult to pin as part of the radical left—although the GOP will certainly try to do so. Harris is also very good on television and social media, and this matters a great deal. During the pandemic campaign, Biden will need help selling his message on camera—one area where he doesn’t shine as much as he does when he’s out on the campaign trail. Most observers agree that Harris “pops” on the screen. Americans saw this not only during the debates, but also during Senate hearings, when she has delivered razor-sharp questions. After dropping out of the primaries, Harris tweeted “Don’t worry, Mr. President, I’ll see you at your trial.” While she was referring to Donald Trump’s impeachment, the real trial will take place in November — and now the senator will have the chance to deliver on her promise. No vice-presidential candidate is perfect. Over the next few weeks, some of her weaknesses and flaws inevitably will be exposed as she faces the glare of the media once again. But the Trump campaign should be very worried. In one of his most important decisions of the campaign, Biden has made a strong choice that will greatly improve his chances of defeating President Trump. Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst, is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of the book, “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party.” Follow him on Twitter @julianzelizer. Sarah Isgur: The Trump campaign’s job just got a lot harderTime and again, pundits through the winter said that Democrats were on the same path as Republicans were in 2016 — too many candidates, catering to the extreme wings of their party, appealing to an ever-shrinking base unable or unwilling to run a campaign aimed at persuading voters in the middle. The far-left progressive wing was taking over and Bernie Sanders was moments away from being the leader of the Democratic Party.Fast forward to August: Joe Biden is the nominee and Kamala Harris is rounding out the ticket. This is the Democratic equivalent in a lot of ways to a 2016 GOP ticket of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. More conservative than George W. Bush? Sure. But hardly Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee heralding the apotheosis of the Tea Party movement. Over the coming weeks, polls are likely to tighten as voters “come home” (as campaign pros like to say) to their respective parties after wandering in the summer wilderness of the undecideds. The Trump campaign’s new ad blitz has focused on portraying Biden as too extreme for middle America. And, no doubt, some voters will cite Harris as their reason for voting for President Donald Trump, but it’s unlikely her nomination made any difference.After all, a recent poll showed that 54% of voters said that Biden’s pick would “have no impact on their choice for president.” Add that to the survey from the Wall Street Journal that looked at polls from 1988-2016 and found “overwhelming majorities have said a candidate’s choice of running mate has no effect on their vote for president.” Pundits and prognosticators have loved the narrative that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party was poised to take over. But that plot line was too simple for 2020 — and Harris is no Sanders. The Trump campaign will do its best to cast this ticket in the most extreme light, but their jobs just got a lot harder. Sarah Isgur is a CNN political analyst. She is a staff writer at The Dispatch and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. She previously worked on three Republican presidential campaigns and graduated from Harvard Law School.
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Syria war: US deploys extra troops to Syria after Russia clashes

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Syria war: US deploys extra troops to Syria after Russia clashes

Publishedduration2 hours agoimage copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionA few hundred US troops remain in Syria’s north-eastThe US has ramped up its military presence in Syria after a number of skirmishes with Russian forces intensified tensions in the country.US officials said six Bradley Fighting Vehicles and about 100 troops were part of the deployment to north-east Syria.Incidents between US and Russian forces that patrol that part of the country have escalated this year.US Navy Captain Bill Urban said the move would “ensure the safety and security of Coalition forces”.He added that, alongside the fighting vehicles, which had been based in Kuwait, the US would also deploy a “Sentinel radar” and increase “the frequency of US fighter patrols over US forces”.”The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation in Syria, but will defend Coalition forces if necessary,” Mr Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, said in a statement on Friday.Mr Urban did not mention Russia by name, but a separate statement from a US official, first reported by NBC News, was more pointed.”These actions and reinforcements are a clear signal to Russia to adhere to mutual de-confliction processes and for Russia and other parties to avoid unprofessional, unsafe and provocative actions in north-east Syria,” the unnamed US official said.NBC News cited officials as saying the troops and vehicles were sent to deter Russian forces from entering a security area, where US coalition and Kurdish forces were operating.Over the years, there have been frequent interactions between US and Russian forces in Syria. But in recent weeks, incidents in north-east Syria have become increasingly belligerent.At the end of August, seven American soldiers were injured in a collision with a Russian vehicle. The Russian and US governments blamed each other for the collision, which was filmed and posted to Twitter.image copyrightRusvesna.su/youtubeimage captionA clip of the incident was broadcast by Russian website Rusvesna.suThe US said Russian forces had entered a “security zone” that they had agreed to stay out of. Russia, meanwhile, said it had given the US military prior warning that it would be patrolling there.The US has about 500 troops in the area – far fewer than previously – to help secure it against any further threat from Islamic State (IS) jihadists. The The Russians back Syrian government forces while the Americans support local Kurdish fighters, part of a civil war that has convulsed the country since 2011.Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, has long opposed the presence of the US military in the country.In October 2019, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw 1,000 US troops that were operating in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.Months later, Mr Trump said he had decided to keep a few hundred troops in the country to protect oil wells.
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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dead at 87

(CNN)Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, the court announced. She was 87.Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and in recent years served as the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing, consistently delivering progressive votes on the most divisive social issues…

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dead at 87

(CNN)Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, the court announced. She was 87.Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and in recent years served as the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing, consistently delivering progressive votes on the most divisive social issues of the day, including abortion rights, same-sex marriage, voting rights, immigration, health care and affirmative action. Her death — less than seven weeks before Election Day — opens up a political fight over the future of the court. Addressing the liberal justice’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday evening, “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”But Ginsburg told her granddaughter she wanted her replacement to be appointed by the next president, NPR reported. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she dictated to granddaughter Clara Spera days before her death. “She led an amazing life. What else can you say?” President Donald Trump said Friday evening upon hearing about her death. “She was an amazing woman whether you agree or not she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life.” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden praised Ginsburg as a “giant in the legal profession” and a “beloved figure,” saying in brief on-camera remarks Friday evening that people “should focus on the loss of the justice and her enduring legacy.””But there is no doubt, let me be clear that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” he added, saying that was the position of Republicans who refused to vote on then-President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016.Obama, in a statement mourning Ginsburg, also called for Senate Republicans to uphold the standard they set in 2016 when they blocked his nominee.”Over a long career on both sides of the bench — as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist — Justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn’t only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It’s about who we are — and who we can be,” Obama said in a statement.He added, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored. Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in.A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment.”Ginsburg developed a rock star status and was dubbed the “Notorious R.B.G.” In speaking events across the country before liberal audiences, she was greeted with standing ovations as she spoke about her view of the law, her famed exercise routine and her often fiery dissents.”Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” said Chief Justice John Roberts. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”Ginsburg, who died on the eve of the Jewish new year, was surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, DC, the court said. A private interment service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.Ginsburg had suffered from five bouts of cancer, most recently a recurrence in early 2020 when a biopsy revealed lesions on her liver. She had said that chemotherapy was yielding “positive results” and that she was able to maintain an active daily routine.”I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam,” she said in a statement in July 2020. “I remain fully able to do that.”She told an audience in 2019 that she liked to keep busy even when she was fighting cancer. “I found each time that when I’m active, I’m much better than if I’m just lying about and feeling sorry for myself,” she said in New York at the Yale Club at an event hosted by Moment Magazine. Ginsburg told another audience that she thought she would serve until she was 90 years old. Tiny in stature, she could write opinions that roared disapproval when she thought the majority had gone astray. Before the election of President Donald Trump, Ginsburg told CNN that he “is a faker” and noted that he had “gotten away with not turning over his tax returns.” She later said she regretted making the comments and Trump suggested she should recuse herself in cases concerning him. She never did. In 2011, by contrast, President Barack Obama singled out Ginsburg at a White House ceremony. “She’s one of my favorites,” he said, “I’ve got a soft spot for Justice Ginsburg.”The vacancy gives Trump the opportunity to further solidify the conservative majority on the court and fill the seat of a woman who broke through the glass ceiling at a time when few women attended law school with a different justice who could steer the court to the right on social issues.Ginsburg was well-known for the work she did before taking the bench, when she served as an advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union and became the architect of a legal strategy to bring cases to the courts that would ensure that the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection applied to gender. “I had the good fortune to be alive and a lawyer in the late 1960s when, for the first time in the history of the United States, it became possible to urge before courts, successfully, that society would benefit enormously if women were regarded as persons equal in stature to men,'” she said in a commencement speech in 2002.Once she took the bench, Ginsburg had the reputation of a “judge’s judge” for the clarity of her opinions that gave straightforward guidance to the lower courts. At the Supreme Court, she was perhaps best known for the opinion she wrote in United States v. Virginia, a decision that held that the all-male admissions policy at the state funded Virginia Military Institute was unconstitutional for its ban on women applicants. “The constitutional violation in this case is the categorical exclusion of women from an extraordinary educational opportunity afforded men,” she wrote in 1996.Ginsburg faced discrimination herself when she graduated from law school in 1959 and could not find a clerkship. No one was more surprised than Ginsburg of the status she gained with young women in her late 70s and early 80s. She was amused by the swag that appeared praising her work, including a “You Can’t have the Truth, Without Ruth” T-shirt as well as coffee mugs and bobbleheads. Some young women went as far as getting tattoos bearing her likeness. A Tumblr dubbed her the “Notorious R.B.G.” in reference to a rap star known as “Notorious B.I.G.” The name stuck. One artist set Ginsburg’s dissent in a religious liberty case to music. “It makes absolute sense that Justice Ginsburg has become an idol for younger generations,” Justice Elena Kagan said at an event at the New York Bar Association in 2014. “Her impact on America and American law has been extraordinary.””As a litigator and then as a judge, she changed the face of American anti-discrimination law,” Kagan said. “She can take credit for making the law of this country work for women and in doing so she made possible my own career.” Ginsburg, even after her fifth diagnosis of cancer, was working on a book with one of her former clerks, Amanda Tyler. It was based on her life on gender equality.Dissents and strategyPart of Ginsburg’s renown came from her fierce dissents in key cases, often involving civil rights or equal protection.In 2007, the court heard a case concerning Lilly Ledbetter, who had worked as a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama. Near the end of her career, Ledbetter discovered a pay disparity between her salary and the salaries of male co-workers. She filed a claim arguing she had received a discriminatorily low salary because of her sex, in violation of federal law. A majority of the court found against Ledbetter, ruling she had filed her complaints too late. Ginsburg wasn’t impressed with that reasoning. “The court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination,” Ginsburg wrote, urging Congress to take up the issue, which it did in 2009.In 2015, it was Ginsburg who led the liberal block of the court as it voted in favor of same-sex marriage with the critical fifth vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy wrote the opinion and it was joined by the liberals, who chose not to write separately. Ginsburg was likely behind that strategy and she said later that had she written the majority she might have put more emphasis on equal protection.After the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, Ginsburg was the most senior of her liberal colleagues and she had the power to assign opinions when the chief justice was on the other side. She assigned herself an angry dissent when the court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.”The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” she wrote. She compared racial discrimination to a “vile infection” and said early attempts to protect against it were like “battling the Hydra.” She also penned a partial dissent in a 2012 case concerning Obama’s health care law, disagreeing with the conservative justices that the individual mandate was not a valid exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause. She called the reasoning “crabbed” but was satisfied that Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the fifth vote to uphold the law under the taxing power. Ginsburg puzzled some liberals with her criticisms of the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion — a case that was decided well before she took the bench. Although she said she felt like the result was right, she thought the Supreme Court should have limited itself to the Texas statute at hand instead of issuing a sweeping decision that created a target for opponents to abortion rights.She was in dissent in 2007 when the majority upheld a federal ban on a procedure called “partial birth abortion.” She called the decision “alarming” and said that it “tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”She voted with the majority, however, in 2016 when the court struck down a Texas abortion law that critics called one of the strictest nationwide.In July, Ginsburg filed another fierce dissent when the conservative majority allowed the Trump administration to expand exemptions for employers who have religious or moral objections to complying with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.”Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” Ginsburg wrote, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She observed that the administration had said the new rules would cause thousands of women — “between 70,500 and 126,400 women of childbearing age,” she wrote — to lose coverage.Friendship with ScaliaDespite their ideological differences, her best friend on the bench was the late Justice Antonin Scalia. After the conservative’s sudden death in February 2016, Ginsburg said he left her a “treasure trove” of memories. She was a life-long opera fan who appeared onstage in 2016 at the Kennedy Center for a non-speaking role in the Washington National Opera’s “The Daughter of the Regiment.”At speaking events she often lamented that while she dreamed of being a great opera diva, she had been born with the limited range of a sparrow.Her relationship with Scalia inspired Derrick Wang to compose a comic opera he titled “Scalia/Ginsburg” that was based on opinions penned by the two justices.The actress Kate McKinnon also portrayed Ginsburg — wearing black robes and a trademark jabot — in a recurring “Saturday Night Live” skit responding to the news of the day.Ginsburg suffered two bouts of cancer in 1999 and 2009 and received a stent implant in her heart but never missed a day of oral arguments. She was married to Martin Ginsburg, a noted tax attorney, for more than 50 years until his death in 2010 and they had two children. “I would just like people to think of me as a judge who did the best she could with whatever limited talent I had,” Ginsburg said at an event at the University of California Hastings College of Law in 2011, “to keep our country true to what makes it a great nation and to make things a little better than they might have been if I hadn’t been there.”This story has been updated. Sarah Mucha and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.
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Analysis: 20 years of closed-door conversations with Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(CNN)Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 on Friday, reached the heights of power at her own pace, always recalibrating the time she put to family and her pioneering career.”There is no man, no woman, who has it all,” she remarked in one interview with me as we sat in her…

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Analysis: 20 years of closed-door conversations with Ruth Bader Ginsburg

(CNN)Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 on Friday, reached the heights of power at her own pace, always recalibrating the time she put to family and her pioneering career.”There is no man, no woman, who has it all,” she remarked in one interview with me as we sat in her oak-paneled chambers filled with contemporary art. “Life just isn’t that way.”For nearly two decades, Ginsburg permitted me to visit her private office to gather information for books I wrote about the Supreme Court and for my daily journalism work. Justices rarely open their doors to reporters, and I never took these sessions for granted. The nine members of the bench operate behind layers of security and a desire for secrecy as they decide the law of the land. Some justices go to great lengths to control their public images.But Ginsburg was generous with the time she gave me, and she became more open over the years. She spoke most readily about the women’s rights issues that brought her national attention as an American Civil Liberties Union advocate in the 1970s. In time, she offered thoughts on other legal issues, the political dilemmas of the day and her personal dealings with her colleagues.Our most politically charged conversation came in July 2016, when I asked her if she had had second thoughts about her quips on possibly moving to New Zealand if Donald Trump won the presidency. Her remarks, which had been published by other news organizations before my visit, were drawing criticism for breaching judicial temperament.Rather than back down, Ginsburg escalated. “He’s a faker,” she told me. “He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego.” This criticism of Trump, published on CNN, ratcheted up complaints from the right and left that she had violated judicial decorum by expressing her views on the presidential race. Candidate Trump called on her to resign. “Her mind is shot,” he declared on Twitter.A few days later, Ginsburg issued a statement saying she regretted speaking so candidly.About a year ago, in August 2019, following her fourth cancer ordeal, we were on the same plane as she traveled to Buffalo, New York, for her first appearance after undergoing radiation for newly discovered pancreatic cancer. Waiting for takeoff, she worked on a draft of the speech she was to deliver. She had just completed radiation treatment but did not want to cancel the commitment. The old friend who had persuaded her to schedule the University of Buffalo visits had recently died. Ginsburg did not want to pull out because of her own health problems. Within weeks that fall, she followed up with scheduled appearances in Washington; New York; Little Rock, Arkansas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Chicago.Ginsburg wanted to stay in the public eye as much as possible. A little over a decade earlier, when she was being treated for her first occurrence of pancreatic cancer, she explained the importance of being visible. In the middle of difficult radiation treatment, she chose to attend Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress. At the time, February 2009, she was the lone female justice on the bench.”First, I wanted people to see that the Supreme Court isn’t all male,” Ginsburg told me afterward. “I also wanted them to see I was alive and well, contrary to that senator who said I’d be dead within nine months.” (She was referring to the late Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican who had predicted her cancer was so serious it likely would kill her.)Ginsburg possessed a cheeky humor but was never brazen. She spoke slowly, with long pauses between sentences. In her chambers, bookshelves and tables were filled with family photos and mementos of her legal milestones, which included arguing six cases before the Supreme Court as a women’s rights lawyer.She used a special cupboard for the elaborate collars and jabots she wore over her black robe. Off the bench, she dressed in colorful designer dresses, jackets and shawls. She enjoyed fashion and sometimes talked about the boutiques she had visited in her travels.As a lawyer and justice, Ginsburg was exacting. She also admitted when she was wrong. And as a working mother, she never presented herself as perfect.When daughter Jane was born in 1955, Ginsburg said she was afraid to pick her up. “I was scared to death of her,” she told me in a 2012 conversation. “My natural reaction to Jane was that she would break.”It was during that interview that Ginsburg rejected the assertion of commentators who declared that men, but not women, could “have it all” in the realms of home and work.Neither men nor women could have all they wanted, she said, at any one time in life. Ginsburg’s mantra, instead, was: All in good time. “What you do appreciate at my distance,” she said as she was nearing age 80, “is that the time during which child care is a major part of your life is relatively brief.”Learning from O’Connor; wanting to ‘strangle’ ScaliaMy interviews with Ginsburg began two decades ago as I began researching a 2005 biography of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female justice. Ginsburg became the second woman on the bench, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.Ginsburg described how O’Connor had reacted when Ginsburg sought her advice regarding the first opinion then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist had assigned her to write. Usually the first assignment for a new justice is a relatively easy unanimous case, but Rehnquist gave Ginsburg a complicated pension dispute.”Sandra, how can he do this to me?” Ginsburg said to O’Connor.”Ruth, you just do it,” O’Connor answered bluntly, “and get your opinion in circulation before he makes the next set of assignments.”As Ginsburg related the story, she said of the no-nonsense O’Connor: “That is so typical Sandra.” O’Connor, who grew up on a ranch, exuded determination in all things. She had been an Arizona state legislator before becoming a judge and had the distinction of being the first female majority leader of any state Senate nationwide. Like Ginsburg, who raised two children, O’Connor managed her career and motherhood, with three sons.But the women differed in style and legal substance, and Ginsburg sometimes marveled that she, a Brooklyn-born liberal, had forged a deep friendship on the bench with Arizona Republican O’Connor.In our early interviews, Ginsburg spoke readily about Justice Antonin Scalia, another one of my book subjects. Ginsburg and “Nino” had become close when first serving together on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. They were ideological opposites but often exchanged drafts of opinions as they worked out arguments. They traveled together, shared a love for opera and celebrated New Year’s Eve at an annual dinner with spouses.As dear as Scalia was to Ginsburg, he became a thorn in the side of O’Connor. It perturbed him that the conservative Reagan appointee searched for a middle ground on the law. After O’Connor balked at striking down abortion rights in a 1989 case, he said her rationale “cannot be taken seriously.”Ginsburg told me, “Nino, in my view, sometimes does go overboard. It would be better if he dropped things like: ‘This opinion is not to be taken seriously.’ He might have been more influential here if he did not do that.””I love him,” she added of Scalia. “But sometimes I’d like to strangle him.”Actually, Ginsburg initially said she wanted to “wring his neck,” but she quickly amended the phrase, perhaps thinking it sounded too aggressive. She often repeated her mother’s adage that she should always act like a lady even as she spoke her own mind.Scalia was a constant topic for us, particularly from 2006 to 2009, when I was focused on his biography. “There are few of us who have such confidence that we are right,” she declared of Scalia’s approach to the law and life.During this period, Ginsburg was the only woman on the bench. O’Connor had retired in January 2006, and Sonia Sotomayor, the third female justice, did not join the high court until August 2009, appointed by Obama.Ginsburg was missing O’Connor in these years, particularly during the justices’ closed-door sessions known as “the conference,” when they privately discuss which appeals to hear and how to rule on cases after oral arguments are held.”At the conference, she spoke long before I did,” Ginsburg said, referring to O’Connor’s seniority and the traditional order of the nine justices at the table. “She is not an on-the-one-hand, on-the-other hand person.”Ginsburg recalled that her own views were sometimes discounted in the justices’ sessions, in the same vein as when she was a young lawyer. “I don’t know how many meetings I attended in the ’60s and the ’70s, where I would say something, and I thought it was a pretty good idea. … Then somebody else would say exactly what I said. Then people would become alert to it, respond to it.””It can happen even in the conferences in the court,” she continued in this spring 2009 interview, “when I will say something — and I don’t think I’m a confused speaker — and it isn’t until somebody else says it that everyone will focus on that point.” Some of her male colleagues later told me they were surprised by her comments.On occasion, readers questioned whether Ginsburg was trying to send a message to the other justices through me. I brushed off that suggestion. Ginsburg was able to speak her mind and skilled at persuasion. And she never knew for certain when anything she told me would be published.One such incident occurred in spring 2009, when I wrote about Ginsburg’s views of a then-pending case involving an eighth-grade girl who had been strip-searched for the drug ibuprofen at her Arizona school. I brought the dispute up with Ginsburg because of the frustration she had displayed at oral arguments when her colleagues minimized the girl’s ordeal.”They have never been a 13-year-old girl. It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I don’t think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood. … Maybe a 13-year-old boy in a locker room doesn’t have that same feeling about his body. But a girl who’s just at the age where she is developing, whether or has developed a lot …. Or … has not developed at all (might be) embarrassed about that.”In the end, the majority ruled in the case of Safford Unified School District v. Redding that the search was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.Changes at the courtOver the past decade, Ginsburg’s work and home life underwent significant changes. Most personally, her husband of 56 years, Martin, died after a struggle with cancer. “I miss Marty enormously,” she later told me. “I think of him 100 times a day.” Ginsburg also became the leader of the left wing of the court in 2010, as Justice John Paul Stevens retired. She embraced that role, operating more strategically with her colleagues on the left and writing stronger dissents for that bloc. She said she felt a stronger sense of mission. “I know that’s what he would have wanted,” she said of Marty.In 2010, Elena Kagan joined the court. “I like the idea that we’re all over the bench,” Ginsburg said of the three women on the nine-member court in 2011. “It says women are here to stay.”She also enjoyed watching Kagan spar rhetorically with Chief Justice John Roberts in the behind-the-scenes drafting process. Kagan “is just a delight,” Ginsburg told me, “and very solid on substance.”She and Kagan, along with Justices Stephen Breyer and Sotomayor, were often in dissent as the conservative Roberts majority only became stronger. “We have really tried hard not to be splintered,” she told me in 2013, “to give a solidity to the dissent.Health and pressure to retireAfter Ginsburg survived colorectal cancer in 1999 and the first bout with pancreatic cancer in 2009, her health became a major topic of public interest. I began following up on even minor incidents. In summer 2012, Scalia told me she had slipped and fractured her ribs in the spring. So when I visited Ginsburg soon after my Scalia conversation, I asked how she was feeling. She downplayed the rib injury. She said there was nothing to do but work through the pain. It just so happened that the rib fracture occurred as she was navigating with her colleagues the difficult constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act.The physical resilience of Ginsburg, then 79, continued to amaze me. When I went to see her at the close of the next year’s session, in 2013, I offhandedly asked whether she had again fallen. I did not expect the answer I received.”Yes, I fell,” she said. “It was almost identical” to what had happened a year earlier. “I knew immediately what it was this time. They wanted to send me to … the emergency room, and I said, no, absolutely not. … There’s nothing you could do. You just live on painkillers for awhile.”Ginsburg plowed through the vicissitudes of life and, as she reached 80, rebuffed retirement suggestions, particularly from liberals who wanted her to step down while a Democrat was in the White House. In 2014, I received a tip that Obama had privately invited Ginsburg to lunch a few months earlier. I could not help but wonder whether Obama was exploring the possibility that she might soon retire. I asked the justice how their time together had gone.”They’ve got a very good chef at the White House,” Ginsburg began. “The problem for me is the President eats very fast. And I eat very slowly. I barely finished my first course when they brought the second. Then the President was done, and I realized that he had important things to do with his time.”Ginsburg rejected my questions about whether he might have been fishing for any sign, as they dined alone, of her retirement plans.”I don’t think he was fishing,” she said.When I asked why she thought he had invited her, she said, “Maybe to talk about the court. Maybe because he likes me. I like him.”I raised the possibility that Obama might have been trying to send her a message, perhaps to encourage her to step down while he was still in office. She rejected that possibility and said flatly: “If the President invites you, probably a part of you says, ‘Don’t question it. Just go.'”In these years, some liberals feared that if Ginsburg did not leave while Democrat Obama was in office, she might be forced due to illness to leave during a Republican presidency, which would bolster the conservative majority.Ginsburg said it was unlikely that Obama would been able to win confirmation of another liberal, irrespective of timing. At one point in 2014, she asked me rhetorically, “So tell me who the President could have nominated this spring that you would rather see on the court than me?”Less than two years later, it was Scalia who was suddenly gone. He died at a remote hunting lodge in Texas on a vacation.”My first reaction was I was supposed to go first,” Ginsburg later told me. “I’m three years older. My second thought was, well, we all have to go sometimes.”Referring to Scalia’s apparently dying in his sleep, she said, “It’s the best you can do.”The justice and I talked again in January 2018, at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, when CNN Films premiered the Emmy-nominated documentary film “RBG.” President Trump was beginning his second year in office and there was a chance he would soon have an appointment to the high court. But the subjects of our conversations were light, related to travel and family. She always asked about my daughter, who shared her passions for opera and theater.In July 2019, Ginsburg spoke at Georgetown Law School about her life and career, and I moderated a panel afterward that featured women who had followed her path in the law and on the bench.Many of Ginsburg’s comments related to the balance she had struck with her husband to allow them both to pursue professional goals. She said she had concentrated on home and family when Marty was working long hours to become a partner at a law firm.”Then it switched,” she told the Georgetown Law audience, “when the women’s movement came alive at the end of the ’60s, and Marty realized that what I was doing was very important.”She described him as her “biggest booster,” and he might not have surprised at the celebrity status she achieved, had he lived to see it, when the “Notorious RBG” meme first went viral in 2013.A visit to talk about civil procedureMy last session with RBG in chambers occurred in January 2020. I asked if I could see her to discuss her interest in civil procedure, which dated to her law school days at Harvard and deepened as she compared the US and Swedish legal systems early in her legal career. Civil procedure covers the rules for who can sue and when, and with what particular claims. I had noticed that Ginsburg seemed to be focused more on procedural flaws in cases, for example, that a claim was moot, perhaps as a way to blunt the effort by the court’s five conservative justices to set new precedents on the merits of disputes.It was during that interview that she told me she was in good health, “cancer free.” She then quickly produced a sheet of paper that held a “favorite quote,” from a 1943 case. “The history of liberty,” Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote in McNabb v. US, “has largely been the history of observance of procedural safeguards.”She seemed delighted to have reason to recall her first civil procedure course at Harvard and her drive to volunteer as much as possible when the professor asked questions. I told her that Scalia had once described her as “a tigress on civil procedure.””She has done more to shape the law in this field than any other justice on this court,” he had told me. “She will take a lawyer who is making a ridiculous argument and just shake him like a dog with a bone.””I wish he had listened to me more often,” Ginsburg responded during our January conversation.She shuddered as she recounted a 2011 case in which, she said, Scalia and other conservatives had “picked up” enough votes to deprive her of a majority on a civil procedure issue. Before that case, she told me, “I was really on a roll.”When I left her chambers, she was still clutching the Frankfurter quote. With her reminiscences of law school competition and high court rivalry, Ginsburg exuded an enduring youthfulness, along with the intensity of the modern “RBG.”Just a few months earlier I had watched her bask in the appreciation of audiences — multiple standing ovations — at the University of Buffalo.Declared Ginsburg: “It was beyond my wildest imagination that I would one day become the ‘Notorious RBG.'”
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