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tv   CNN Films RBG  CNN  September 20, 2020 7:00pm-9:00pm PDT

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this from shortly after the time it was announced on friday that she had died. a legend the court remembered foldly. a life and legacy that will have an impact for generations. cnn coverage continues with the cnn film "rbg." blank ♪ ♪
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♪ this witch, this evildoer, this monster. >> she has no respect for the traditions of our constitution, none. >> an absolute disgrace to the supreme court. >> she's one of the most vile human beings, wicked. >> she's very wicked, yeah. >> she is anti-american. >> she's a zombie. the woman's a zombie, ruth bader ginsburg. >> i ask no favor for my sex. all i ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.
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♪ ♪ forget the bull in the china shop, there's a china doll in the bullpen ♪ ♪ ♪ biting at the bit ♪ forget the bull in the china shop ♪ ♪ there's a china doll in the bullpen ♪ ♪ it's all in the wrist, fire from the hispanic ♪ ♪ talk a little shit ♪ let's begin life >> 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19. ♪ it's been assumed i'm soft or irrelevant because i refuse to downplay my intelligence ♪ ♪ but in the room with thugs and veterans ♪ ♪ why am i the only one that's acting like a gentleman ♪ >> justice ruth bader ginsburg. [ cheers and applause ] >> how's your health? >> i'm doing just fine.
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>> here now to comment is ruth bader ginsburg. >> it's an amazing thing to see somebody in her 80s become such an icon. >> would you mind signing this copy? >> i am 84 years old, and everyone wants to take a picture with me. >> she is really, when you come right down to it, the closest thing to a superhero i know. ♪ and i love this job, but, ah, good god, sometimes i hate this business ♪ >> they call her notorious rbg. that's her rap name. >> notorious -- >> rbg. >> yeah. >> no. rgb -- rbg, right. >> supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg getting a lot of attention after she delivered a scathing dissent. >> whether you agree with her or not, you've got to acknowledge she's been a force on that court. >> liberal hero ruth bader ginsburg. >> as much as people admire her, they don't even know the half of it. >> she was the queen. >> ruth knew what she was doing in laying the foundation. >> to put women on exactly the same plane as men.
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>> ruth bader ginsburg quite literally changed the way the world is for american women. >> 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5. >> today the senate judiciary committee welcomed judge ruth bader ginsburg, the president's nominee to be associate justice of the united states supreme court. ♪ >> judge, do you swear the testimony you're about to give will be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do, mr. chairman. >> thank you. >> i am a brooklynite, born and bred. a first-generation american on my father's side, barely second generation on my mother's. what has become of me could
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happen only in america. ♪ >> neither of my parents had the means to attend college, but both taught me to love learning, to care about people, and to work hard for whatever i wanted or believed in. >> my father was from odessa, and during his growing-up years, jews were no longer admitted to the russian schools. education was terribly important. my mother was loving but also very strict, making sure that i did my homework, practiced the piano, didn't stay out jumping rope too long. i loved to do the things that boys did when i was growing up.
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one of our favorite things was climbing garage roofs, from one roof to another, leaping over. >> justice ginsburg, we cannot call ruth. >> right. >> we call her kicky. >> she was beautiful. big, beautiful blue eyes which you really can't see very well behind her glasses. very soft brown hair. >> she had this kind of quiet magnetism even though she was not effusive. >> you always thought that she wasn't listening and she didn't know what was going on, but she knew what was going on. >> she didn't do small talk. >> no, no small talk. >> and she didn't do girl chat. >> no. >> and she didn't get on the phone and talk with us about what happened on the weekend. >> she's a deep thinker. >> she's an only child. >> she had a sister. i didn't know her sister. >> her sister passed away. >> right. >> but she and her mom were very close. >> very, very close.
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>> my mother died when i was 17. i wish i could have had her longer. >> well, her mother must have been a very steely person because she had cancer a long time and lived trying to get her child through high school. >> we were supposed to be at graduation, and then the night before, we got a message that she would not be able to be part of this. we knew then that her mother had passed away. >> she had two lessons that she repeated over and over. be a lady and be independent. be a lady meant don't allow yourself to be overcome by useless emotions like anger.
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and by independent, she meant it would be fine if you met prince charming and lived happily ever after, but be able to fend for yourself. >> in my lifetime, i expect to see three, four, perhaps even more women on the high court bench, women not shaped from the same mold but of different complexions. i surely would not be in this room today without the determined efforts of men and women who kept dreams of equal citizenship alive. i have had the great good fortune to share life with a partner, truly extraordinary for his generation, a man who
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believed at age 18, when we met, that a woman's work, whether at home or on the job, is as important as a man's. i became a lawyer in days when women were not wanted by most members of the legal profession. i became a lawyer because marty supported that choice unreservedly. >> so what was it about marty? [ laughter ] >> marty and i met when i was 17. he was 18. i was in college. cornell was a preferred school for daughters.
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in those days, there was a strict quota for women. there were four men to every woman. so for parents, cornell was the ideal place to send a girl. if she couldn't find her man there, she was hopeless. [ laughter ] my first semester at cornell, i never did a repeat date. [ laughter ] [ applause ] but then i met marty, and there was something amazingly wonderful about this man. he was the first boy i ever knew who cared that i had a brain. most guys in the '50s didn't. one of the sadnesses about the brilliant girls who attended
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cornell is that they kind of suppressed how smart they were. but marty was so confident of his own ability, so comfortable with himself that he never regarded me as any kind of a threat. >> we all were struck by the tremendous difference between marty and ruth. marty was the most gregarious, outgoing, life of the party. ruth was really quite recesssive in a way. shy, quiet, soft voice. but they worked. they worked. >> he's so young.
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>> meeting marty was by far the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me. marty was a man blessed with a wonderful sense of humor. i tend to be rather sober. in those days, it was not a great time for our country. there was a red scare abroad in the land. >> are you a member of the communist party, or have you ever been a member of the communist party? >> it's unfortunate and tragic that i have to teach this committee that -- >> that's not the question. that's not the question. >> i had a government professor, and he wanted me to see that our country was straying from its most basic values by some of our politicians who were seeing communists in every closet, but that there were lawyers who were defending the rights of these people to think, to speak, to write freely.
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>> stand away from the stand. >> -- fight for the bill of rights. >> officer, take this man away from the stand. >> and then i got the idea that you could do something that would make your society a little better. my family had some reservations about this, but then when i married at the end of college, my family said, she wants to be a lawyer. let her try. if she can't succeed, she will have a husband to support her. >> that's me waiting to get my diploma. very happy. that's a nice one. >> cute, yeah. >> my brother and cousins and i all call her bubbe. it's the yiddish word for grandmother. it's what we've always called bubbe. >> bubbe? >> yes? >> do you know if you have fake sugar, like splenda or sweet'n low? >> yes.
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it should be someplace. >> that's helpful. i feel like i have my grandmotherly relationship with her but also somewhat of a student and scholarly relationship to her as well now. she taught me that the way to win an argument is not to yell because often that will turn people away more so than bringing them to your table. >> i don't know what that says. i can't tell. >> for extraordinary dedication to the harvard law school and efforts on its behalf. >> this was the 200th year of harvard, so it took 200 years for us to -- we were the first class that was 50-50 women, so 50% men. we were the first class. it takes 200 -- yeah. you can't claim that as a dependent. because it's inanimate! [ sigh ] people ask ... what sort of a person should become a celebrity accountant? and, i tell them, "nobody should."
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women did not come into the harvard law school until the very early '50s. 2% was about what it was back then. >> how did it feel to be one of nine women in a class of over 500 men? you felt you were constantly on display. so if you were called on in class, you felt that if you didn't perform well, you were failing not just for yourself but for all women. you also had the uncomfortable feeling that you were being watched. >> american antitrust law -- >> harvard was the socratic method. so the professor would ask a question, and then you would be called on to answer. the way it worked with women is they didn't call on us. i think they were afraid we would sort of wither if they were subjected to that line of questioning. >> when i was sent to check a periodical in lamont library in the old periodical room, there
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was a man at the door, and he said, you can't come in. why can't i come? because you're a female. there was nothing i could say. this was a university employee that said, you can't come into that room. when i get to harvard law school and i'm really intimidated that first year, marty is saying, oh, my wife, she is going to be on the law review. there was a woman in the class ahead of mine. she said, this husband of yours is boasting that you're going to be on the law review. you look like a little twerp. >> to make the law review in those days, you had to be in the top 25 academically of 535, 540. her second year, she makes the law review. so the mere fact marked her as something special. >> it turned out that i did very
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well the first year, and i attributed it to having something very important in my life that wasn't law books. i came to harvard as the mother of a 14-month-old child. i'd go to school, study as hard as i can in a very concentrated way. i didn't waste any time. 4:00 in the afternoon, our babysitter left, and that was my child's hours till she went to sleep. playing with my daughter gave me a respite from the kind of work i was doing at law school and i think made me more sane. >> we knew that marty was ill. we just knew he had his own
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battle, and ruth is now caring for both marty and janie. >> marty, in his third year of law school, had a virulent cancer and days when there was no chemotherapy. there was only massive radiation. he'd go for the radiation, wake up about midnight when the only food that he ate for the day, he could manage, and then i started typing the notes that his classmates had given me from his classes, reading whatever cases i would read for the next day, and maybe i got two hours' sleep. >> she did her own work, helped her husband with his work, organized his friends so they could help him with his work, and took care of her 2-year-old child. fortunately marty lived, but it's when she learned how to burn the candle at both ends.
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♪ >> one of the memories of my childhood would be waking up in the middle of the night. there mom would be spread out over the dining room table with her legal pads and the coffee in one hand and the box of prunes at the other. >> she will work until 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the morning, sometimes even later. then she will get up. she has a sitting. she would have to be at the court before 9:00. and then she sleeps the entire weekend. so she catches up. >> the thing about working for a justice who works extremely hard
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is we saw marty come to chambers often to lure her home. he would say, ruth, it's time to come home for dinner. she sometimes had to be physically brought home. >> marty graduated from the harvard law school and was going to a firm in new york. that was when ruth finished her second year. given marty, given his recent illness, they had to remain together, and the logical place was new york, and the best option was columbia. >> when i graduated from columbia law school in 1959, not a law firm in the entire city of new york would employ me. >> four of us from my class, marty's class, went to the same law firm, and two of us went to the hiring partner and said, we had somebody on the harvard law
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review that we think is the cat's meow. we think this firm should hire her. as soon as i used the "she" pronoun, the senior partner looked at me and he says, young man, you don't seem to understand this firm doesn't hire women. >> she hadn't quite figured out why it was that there were these barriers. >> it wasn't until later that this all came together and became her life's work. >> yes. >> in fighting these injustices. >> being a woman was an impediment. >> we did not have equal rights and equal recognition in the law at all. >> there were not hundreds but thousands of state and federal laws all over this country that discriminated on the basis of gender.
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>> typical laws of the time like the husband is the master of the community. he shall choose where the family will live, and the woman is obliged to follow him. ♪ >> there's no aspect of american life in which you were not treated differently. >> the idea was that men were the breadwinners that counted, and women were pin money earners. so women woke up and complained.
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♪ one of these mornings you're going to rise up singing ♪ ♪ you're going to spread your wings and take to the sky ♪ >> there came to be such a mass and a majority of women really who understood that they were not crazy. the system was crazy. >> now, thanks to the spirit of equality in the air, i no longer accept society's judgment that my group is second class. >> but marching and demonstrating just wasn't ruth's thing. her thing was to use the skills she had and put them to work,
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and those were her legal skills. >> 1963, she started at rutgers as a law professor. >> and really inspired by her students, she agreed to teach a course in this new subject of gender in law. that's also when she began dealing with sex discrimination cases, and that was her entree into becoming a litigator. >> the emergence of a women's rights movement had the possibility of playing the role in the 1970s that the black civil rights movement had played in the 1960s. and so i was particularly eager to create a special project dealing with women's rights. >> i got a call from the aclu asking me if i would consider running the women's rights project with professor ruth bader ginsburg, whom i had heard of but i did not know. i met ruth the first day i was there. she seemed very polite and quiet and reserved, not a firebrand.
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>> she wouldn't speak up a great deal during meetings. she always addressed whatever point there was. there wasn't any peripheral element of it. >> no small talk? >> no small talk. none that i can recall. >> at that point in time, ruth was developing her philosophy to take cases that would make good law. if the case is going to be on its way to the supreme court, we wanted to be involved, and we wanted to frankly take over the case. >> she was following in the footsteps of the great civil rights lawyer thurgood marshall who was the architect of the battle for racial equality, basing it on the clause of the constitution that guarantees equal protection of the law. she wanted it to apply to equal protection for women. >> my first argument before the u.s. supreme court was in
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frontiero v. richardson. >> i was way back in the 1970s a second lieutenant in the air force. i went in the military because i needed the money. >> who says a woman has to settle for a routine job just because she's a woman? discover the united states air force, and you'll discover the world. >> i was newly out of college. this was a new job. i had just married, so it was the start of new everything. it became clear pretty quickly that the men i was working with who were married got a housing allowance, and i wasn't getting paid a housing allowance because i was a woman. i assumed it was a mistake, so i went off to the pay office to correct the mistake. you're lucky we let you in here at all.
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you're lucky that the air force allows you to serve, was what i heard right off the bat. it took me aback, and i figured, well, here's one bigot, so i'll just keep asking around. and it became very clear very quickly that there was no different story. so we went to see a lawyer, and i still thought it was a matter of getting a lawyer to write a letter for me. just write a letter, have the right information. i'm clearly in the same category as these other men. the lawyer said to me, this isn't an administrative error. this is the law, and it's going to have to be rectified with a lawsuit, and if you're willing, we'll take you on. >> ruth and i heard about it and immediately let the lawyer for sharon frontiero know we were interested. it was very important to us to have a part in that case. >> nice girls didn't file lawsuits, particularly after they had been let into the
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service at all. you know, what more did i want? well, i just wanted to be treated like everybody else did. but there was the sense -- and there still is the sense that nice girls don't speak up. nice girls don't make demands. well, too bad. it went to the district court in alabama. we lost, and the next court to go to was the supreme court. >> ruth and i set to work to write the brief. i would write a section, and ruth would take it, and it would come back in a wonderfully brilliant fashion. every word was carefully -- i mean ruth went over every single word. what we wanted was a review of cases that the court would say, sex discrimination doesn't work, and it would be a broad command basically to legislatures to get
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rid of statutes that discriminate on the basis of gender. but she also added to make the point much more poignant the history of women and the way we were treated throughout america and its beginnings. ♪ she captured for the male members of the court what it was like to be a second-class citizen. ♪ >> frontiero went to the court. ruth ginsburg for the first time made an oral argument. she split her time with the
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lawyer, the man who had begun the case in alabama. >> it was an afternoon argument, so i was first up in the afternoon, and i didn't dare have lunch that day. >> she seemed nervous. >> her eyes were wide with sort of anticipation. it's very intense and austere and important and very male, and it's the whole thing feels like -- i was really kind of scared. we sat down at the counsel table, and i had all these huge case books for me to help her with cites. and the court began with the oyez, oyez, oyez, and here we are. >> oyez, oyez, oyez. all persons having business before the supreme court of the
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united states are admonished to draw near and give their attention. the court is now sitting. >> mrs. ginsburg? >> i was terribly, terribly nervous. but then i looked up at the justices, and i thought, i have a captive audience. i knew that i was speaking to men who didn't think there was any such thing as gender-based discrimination, and my job was to tell them it really exists. >> mr. chief justice and may it please the court, women today face discrimination in employment as pervasive and more subtle than discrimination encountered by minority groups. sex classifications imply a judgment of inferiority.
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the sex criterion stigmatizes when it is used to protect women from competing for higher-paying jobs, promotions. it assumes that all women are preoccupied with home and children. these distinctions have a common effect. they help keep woman in her place, a place inferior to that occupied by men in our society. >> there was not a single question. i just went on speaking, and i at the time wondered, are they just indulging me and not listening, or am i telling them something they haven't heard before, and are they paying attention? >> the justices were just glued to her. i don't think they were expecting to have to deal with something as powerful as the
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sheer force of her argument that was just all-encompassing, and they were there to talk about a little statute in the government code. i mean it was -- it was just -- we seized the moment to change american society. >> in asking the court to declare sex a suspect criterion, we urge a position forcibly stated in 1837 by sarah grimke, noted abolitionist, an advocate of equal rights for men and women. she said, "i ask no favor for my sex. all i ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks." >> we're told about the decision when a reporter called us up and said, it went in your favor today. how do you feel? i said, i feel fine. thank you very much. >> we were both happy that we won the case. let's be clear about it.
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we won the case. but we lost the standard of review that we wanted by one vote. >> she tried to make the case that sex discrimination should be treated like race discrimination. four justices signed on to that idea. the problem was you need five. >> i said, it's too soon. my expectation, to be candid, was that i would repeat that kind of argument maybe half a dozen times. i didn't expect it to happen in one fell swoop. i think generally in our society, real change, enduring change happens one step at a time. age is just a number. and mine's unlisted. try boost® high protein...
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i will send out an army to find you in the middle of the darkest night it's true, i will rescue you oh, i will rescue you .
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she is very disciplined, but she has passions that she really enjoys. she loves the opera. >> she goes to multiple opera festivals, and the whole family will go with her. >> i think it is a place of tranquility that is outside of the demands of her job. ♪ >> when i am at an opera, i get totally carried away. i don't think about the case that's coming up next week or
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the brief that i'm in the middle of. i'm overwhelmed by the beauty of the music, the drama, and the sound of the human voice. it's like an electric current going through me. ♪ [ applause ] >> justice, mercy, they're all in opera. very grand emotions. ♪ >> a young man had a tragic experience. his wife had an entirely healthy
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pregnancy, and he was told that he had a healthy baby boy, but his wife had died. >> the problem was an amniotic embolism. and at that particular point, nobody had ever survived that. they did keep her alive for about four hours, but by 3:30 in the afternoon, the code blue came along, and she died. jason was a very easy child. my attitude toward raising a child is that a child is not there for me. i'm there for him. and that's what my job was. >> he determined that he was going to be a caregiving parent to that child. he went to the local social security office and asked about the benefits that he thought a sole surviving parent could get, and he was told that benefit is called a mother's benefit, and he didn't qualify. so he wrote a letter to the
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editor of his local newspaper, and he said, "i've heard a lot about women's lib. let me tell you my story." >> "to the editor. it has been my misfortune to discover that a male cannot collect social security benefits as a woman can. had i been paying into the social security system and had i died, she would have been able to receive a benefit, but male homemakers cannot. i wonder if gloria steinem knows about this." man was discriminated against in order to show the depth and the importance of sex discrimination. very intelligent thing to do. >> we appeared at the united states supreme court in 1975. when we got to the courtroom, she sat me down at the table with her. she just wanted a male presence to be at that table so the justices would have something to identify with. that was just part of her
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strategy. >> she's trying to convince members of the supreme court, who were mostly white, male, privileged class at that time. >> mr. chief justice and may it please the court, for the eight months immediately following his wife's death, stephen wiesenfeld did not engage in substantial gainful employment. instead, he devoted himself to the care of jason paul. >> she knew exactly what she was doing, and it was a very shrewd strategy. >> that case resulted in a unanimous judgment in stephen wiesenfeld's favor. his case was the perfect example of how gender-based discrimination hurts everyone. >> ruth's conception of the strategy led to a whole string of litigation for the next decade.
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>> she wanted to build the idea of women's equality step by step. to use each case, to move things forward. >> it was like knitting a sweater. >> the point is that the discriminatory line almost inevitably hurts women. >> female citizens of louisiana are denied equal protection by the total absence of their peers from the jury. >> i thought the new theory was that there's very little difference between men and women, so why wouldn't men jury be their peers? >> i'm not aware of that new theory. >> they didn't get it. they didn't understand the
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issues that women were facing, or they didn't see them as issues because women had -- in their minds, women had a place and it wasn't where ruth ginsburg was suggesting that it ought to be. >> men and women are persons of equal dignity, and they should count equally before the law. >> you won't settle for putting susan b. anthony on the new dollar? >> when they would say things like this, how would you respond? >> well, never in anger. as my mother told me, that would have been self-defeating. always as an opportunity to teach. i did see myself as kind of a kindergarten teacher in those days because the judges didn't think sex discrimination existed. well, one of the things i tried to plant in their minds was think about how you would like the world to be for your
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daughters and granddaughters. >> the gender line helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage. >> one of the things i'm struck by is how unprepared the defendants were to strike back. we won because we were smart and prepared and were fought hard. >> you couldn't miss what ruth was doing during the '70s. she was creating a legal landscape. >> she was doing something that was incredibly important to american women whether they knew it or not. just the thought that i might catch a glimpse of her is overwhelming.
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i have a mug of her in my room. it says "herstory in the making." >> i have a sticker on my computer. >> and i just ordered tons of merch. >> notorious rbg. >> i think it's easy to take for granted the position that young women can have in today's society, and that's a lot in thanks to justice ginsburg's work. >> who is more disdained or told to go away than an older woman? but here's an older woman that people really want to hear everything she has to say. >> i have been given questions by the students about what it's like to be justice bader ginsburg. do you have a smartphone? >> yes. i had, in fact, two until they took the blackberry away from me saying nobody uses that anymore. what i use it for?
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not for selfies. >> you have said in public many times that the ideal number of women for the supreme court is nine. >> why not? nine men was a satisfactory number until 1981. the change in the federal judiciary as a whole has been enormous. it wasn't until jimmy carter became president. he looked around at the federal judiciary, and he said they all look like me. but that's not how the great united states looks. >> when president carter was elected, he said there are almost no women, and there are almost no african-americans on the federal bench, and i am determined to change that. justice ginsburg and i were two of the people who benefited from that promise. ruth was nominated in 1980, and
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we became colleagues on the u.s. court of appeals for the d.c. circuit. >> judge ginsburg, did you always want to be a judge? >> the law is something that i think ideal with well. i don't have the kind of talent that could make one, say, a great opera singer. i wanted to be active in the law. the law is a consume iing land me. >> when she first was appointed to the bench, we would go into a conference room and the three judges confer and think about
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how we should judge the cases. she would say this is a very straightforward case. i have a prepared judgment for us. initially we were all taken aback like, wait, wait, ruth. you can't do that. she was always right. but we said, no, we have to go through the motions of talking first before you give us the result. >> when i was appointed to the d.c. circuit, so often people would come up to me and say it must be hard for you commuting back and forth to new york. because they couldn't imagine that a man would leave his work to follow his wife. >> he had been extraordinarily successful as a practicing lawyer in new york. there are people who would say he was the best tax lawyer in the city of new york. and believe me, that is saying something. >> he was okay playing second
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fiddle. in fact, he made a joke of it always. he would say i moved to washington because my wife got a good job. >> how much advice do you give each other? >> well -- >> marty was the funny one in the family and she loved it. and you could see the twinkle in her eye when she would do his funny little quips and jokes. >> as a general rule my wife does not give me any advice about cooking and i do not give her any advice about the law. this seems to work quite well on both sides. >> my father was a very outgoing, very fun person and i think he helped temper some of mom's seriousness at times, which i think was to everybody's benefit. >> we used to keep a book called "mommy laughed." which had parsimonious entries.
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>> you are giving me constant advice, starts calling me about 7:00, it's time to come home for dinner. and at 7:30 and somewhere between 7:30 and 9:00 we generally make it. and the other thing is it's time for you to go to sleep. those are the daily -- that's the daily advice that i get. >> well, it's not that bad advice. you have to eat one meal a day and you should go to sleep. >> he allowed ruth to be who she was, that is, a relatively reserved, serious person who focused on her law work and loved doing that. and the relationship was just magnificent to watch. >> when marty was starting out in law practice and eager to make partner i was responsible for the lion's share of taking care of the home. but when the women's movement
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came alive and marty appreciated the importance of the work i was doing, then i became the person whose career came first. >> what was she like as a mom? >> exigent. >> what do you mean by that? >> do your homework, clean your room, don't disappoint us. >> helping a lot with school work, commenting, pulling out the red pen. >> our dear daughter jane, all smile, volunteered to the press she had grown up in a home in which responsibility was equally divided. her father did the cooking, she explained, and her mother did the thinking. >> so is she really such a horrible cook? >> yes. >> odfish after what she did to it.
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>> it wasn't until i was 14 i encountered vegetable. >> ruth is no longer permitted in the kitchen. this by the demand of our children, who have taste. >> this is a book that he collected letters about me for my birthday. >> tata, her husband, my grandfather, he was especially doting so they almost sometimes had a bad cop/good cop relationship when it comes to the grandkids. bubbi was often buried in her work, so if we wanted something we felt like we could nag tata more often for it. >> dear ruth, i have little
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doubt you are proud rightly so as all you have achieved. but i can see no way you can take greater pride than i do, love tata. nice. very nice. >> do you read these often? >> no. i never read. >> you should. they're very nice. if you ever need a boost of confidence. so much of the shape of america is the supreme court, and so the make-up of that court is the during legacy of a president who can appoint justices. and tonight this new president has his first chance to make it a clinton court. >> this president has a very clear idea of what he wants in his justice. >> i really did want governor cuomo on the court, but he didn't want to do it so i started looking around. >> he kept moving from his favorite person of the week to his next favorite person of the week. and judge ginsburg was sort of old to be a nominee. she was in her early 60s. most people, i think, thought
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she was out of the running for that reason. and marty was just not going to accept that. >> we're talking about ruth, and we must remember how shy she was. i can't think of anyone less likely to toot her own horn than ruth. so marty had to play the new york philharmonic. ♪ >> no question about it, people who observed at the time said, well, ruth would have been on a list. maybe she would be 22 or 23. but it was marty who made her number one. he had a little book of people that he contacted. they were -- [ laughter ] >> he had lots of contacts in the business community, lots of
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contacts in the legal community, in the academic community, among the women she had helped. and he -- i don't know even know all the things he did. >> he was so in love with his wife and so respected her as a real giant in the legal profession he felt it would be an outrage if she wasn't seriously considered. >> and, look, he wasn't the only one campaigning for people to be on the court. she had some pretty stiff competition. but it was her interview that did it. we arranged for her to come to the white house. i engaged her in conversation. all of a sudden, i wasn't the president interviewing her for the supreme court anymore. we were two people having an honest discussion about what's the best way in the moment and for the future to make law. >> ruth ginsburg and quiet and kind of withdrawn and almost
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timid as she can be, she is a performer. and she walked in that room and he fell for her. >> literally within 15 minutes i decided i was going to name her. [ applause ] >> i'm proud to nominate this path breaking attorney, advocate and judge to be the 107th justice to the united states supreme court. [ applause ] ♪ you don't trust me here is vegas, do you? well... i thought we had a breakthrough with the volkswagen. we did. yes. we broke through. that's the volkswagen! that's the cross sport. wow. seatbelts. ♪ please, just tell me where we're going. ♪
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>> when i was nominated back in 1993, senator biden chaired the committee. the leading republican member was orrin hatch. >> do you have any concerns right now? >> there are always concerns because these are very important positions. so there will be a lot of questions asked. >> day two of the ruth bader ginsburg confirmation hearings. >> judge ginsburg did something no recent high court nominee had done, spoke at length about her support for abortion rights. >> it is essential to woman's equality with man that her
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choice that her choice -- that she be the decision maker. this is something central to a woman's life, to her dignity. and when government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices. >> she was put on the court by a liberal president as a liberal justice, and that's the way this country works. >> i disagree with you on a number of things and i'm sure you disagree with me. but that isn't the issue, is it? and frankly, i admire you. you've earned the right in my opinion to be on the supreme court. >> she was confirmed 96-3. now, you could argue it's not as partisan a time as it is now. but it was pretty partisan.
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>> promising to defend the constitution, pioneering women's rights advocate ruth bader ginsburg has been sworn in as the second woman on the u.s. supreme court bench. >> i will well and faithfully discharge. >> the duties of the office on which i am about to enter. >> the duties of the office on which i am about to enter. >> so help me god. >> so help me god. >> it was extremely exciting because this powerful little woman was going on the supreme court, and that meant there were going to be two. >> the standard row is made for a man because it has a place for
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the tie. so sandra day o'connor and i thought it would be appropriate if we included as part of our robe something typical of a woman. during my long tenure here i was not the most, quote, liberal justice on the court. >> from the beginning i think what she was looking for was to build consensus. even though chief justice rehnquist and sandra day o'connor was conservative justices, they were still justices with which ginsburg was able to find common ground. that was her style. she really wanted to be able to convince her fellow justices to move her way even if it means compromising.
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>> to start out i thought you might want to know a little bit about the gentlemen who are surrounding us. these are the first set of chief justices of the supreme court. john marshall is the fourth chief justice. and what he said was this constitution is the highest law of the land. the 14th amendment has a clause that you all should know about. and i'll read it to you. it says, "and nor shall any state deny to any person the equal protection of the laws." so if congress passes a law or the president issues an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution, the constitution must prevail. ♪
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>> vmi was a 150-year-old all-male military college. it had a tremendous endowment, well-connected alumni, four star generals. when you came out of vmi, that was something. >> the virginia military institute was the last all-male state-supported school in the country. 157 years of school tradition as an all-male military academy. >> boys can be troublesome, full of hormones and so forth. i don't mean to make general gender characteristics or generalizations here, but for some young men at that time of their life they need discipline and vmi provided that. >> look at the men that stand before you.
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they represent the essence of vmi! >> a female high school student wanted to attend vmi, so she brought a case against virginia claiming that the all-male admissions policy violated equal protection. it actually went from the district court to the appellate court before it came up to the supreme court. this was an extremely important case for justice ginsburg. it was her first women's rights case on the supreme court. >> the honorable, the chief justice and the associate justices of the supreme court of the united states. >> i was very much aware of justice ginsburg's history with respect to gender, excluding women from an institution, i was very much aware of that. and i was trying to fashion an argument that would penetrate that.
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>> mr. chief justice and may it please the court, educators are virtually united that many young men and young women significantly benefit from a same sex education. >> the curiosity is you're defending single-sex education when virginia abandoned single-sex education in all schools but one. >> there are a number of women only schools in virginia that chose themselves to go to coeducation because of demands that occurred -- >> demands from whom? >> the trends that were away from single-sex education. >> i was dealing with a very worthy and formidable force at the other side of that bench. >> to clarify, you are defending vmi for all males and no public program for women. >> the effort by virginia is to promote diversity by creating opportunities for people of both sexes. >> that was my pitch. as you know, it didn't work. >> the opinion of the court in virginia against the united states will be announced by justice ginsburg.
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>> some women can meet the physical standards vmi imposes on men, are capable of all the activities required of vmi cadets, and would want to attend vmi if they had the chance. this opinion does mark as presumptively invalid a law that denies to women equal opportunity to aspire -- >> -- achieve, participate in and to contribute to society based on what they can do. >> the all men policy became history with the arrival of the first female cadets. >> i was in the first class of women. we were here not to break tradition, not to ruin history, but to help grow it.
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for those four years i worked extremely hard to be the best person i could be and to represent women as a whole. i wanted to be that person that stood in front of the men and said i can do it too. >> it's most appropriate that we welcome today a member of our nation's highest court, a notable example of a citizen with a lifelong dedication to public service, justice ruth bader ginsburg. welcome to the virginia military institute. >> vmi fought very hard to keep women out. i had an alumi come up to me and say, i'm not going to shake your hand. i want to know why you're here and why you decided to ruin my school. >> i know there was some people who did not react well to the change, and my response to this
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was, wait and see. you will be proud of the women who become graduates of vmi. [ applause ] >> it wasn't just about vmi. it was about the notion that you cannot exclude women just because they're women. you cannot say categorically they can't handle this. it's way beyond vmi. way beyond. and she pulled some of the justices of that court over to see that you start, you start with an assumption that you have got to treat both genders equally. >> that majority opinion was a culmination of ruth's dedication to the concept of equality for women. >> those are current cadets.
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one elected to be a nuclear scientist. the others engineers. all very well adjusted to life at vmi. so you can see many varieties. there are more up on top. this is the latest one i've gotten. >> so people just send them to you? >> yes. this one was given to me by the university of hawaii, with french lace and the beads are from the beach. it is a gift from law clerks a few terms back. and this is what i use for announcing majority opinion. and this one is for dissenting opinion.
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>> every day before we sit in
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the court the first thing we do is we go around the room, each justice shaking hands with every other. we know that collegiality is very important to the effective working of the court, so we better respect each other and even like each other. >> she did something i'm not sure i could have done. she made real friendship with scalia. >> they are the leading voices with opposite points of view on the united states supreme court. >> why don't you call us the odd couple? >> he is a very funny fellow. >> she's a very nice person. she likes opera. you know, what's not to like? except her views of the law, of course. >> justice scalia believes that one should read the constitution according to its plain language, according to the meanings that were ascribed to those words
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when those words were enacted. >> what you're saying is let's try to figure out the mindset of people back 200 years ago, right? >> it isn't the mindset. it's what did the words mean to the people who ratified the bill of rights or who ratified the constitution. >> as opposed to what people today think it means. >> as opposed to what people today would like. >> i see the constitution as striving for a more perfect union. who were we the people in 1787? you would not be among we the people, african-americans would not be among the people. >> she's this supposed famous liberal. he's this supposed famous conservative. she's jewish, he's catholic. she's retiring at times and he almost never is. and yet as with many great friendships there's a chemistry that maybe you can't entirely explain. >> what's the most fun thing
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you've ever done together? >> she is able to have a friend with outrageous views about women and gays and lesbians. i have trouble with that. i don't have many friends that are right wing nut cases. >> i'm sure they were picking at each other the whole time, but they kind of enjoyed it. >> justice scalia would whisper something to me, all i could do to keep from laughing outloud sometimes would be to pinch myself. >> they enjoyed going to the opera together. they enjoyed discussing particular operas and of course they appeared together in an opera. was it being on that elephant in india? >> that was a rather bumpy ride. >> and some of her feminist friends gave her a hard time
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because she rode behind me on the elephant. i'm not kidding. >> it was -- the driver explained it was a matter of distribution of weight. >> washington has a reputation of being a hard town to make good friendships. and the supreme court itself is a place where your colleagues on any given case are also your adversaries. it was gratifying to see the two of them together and they had these disagreements but my father just had this really wonderful friend. >> the presidential election is over. george bush prevails by one vote in the supreme court. >> george, this effectively ends the election. >> it has ended the election. and peter, literally one of the closest elections in american history. 600 votes approximately separated gore and bush in the state of florida. and now by one vote on the supreme court this election is over. look at the dissents and the strong language in the dissents. justice ginsburg, the court's
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conclusion that a recount is impractical is a prophecy the court's own judgment will not allow to be tested. such an untested prophecy -- >> -- should not decide the presidency of the united states. i dissent. >> she was never supposed to be the great dissenter, but that's the course that history took her on. george w. bush was able to appoint two justices. the addition of samuel alito and john roberts on the court pushed it far to the right. >> the role of an individual justice can change dramatically as the court changes. with the departure of justice o'connor and with more conservatives joining the bench, she found she had to really exercise her dissenting voice. >> of course i prefer to be in the majority. but if necessary, i will write
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separately in dissent. >> i went to work one night and someone had left me a note. it had my name and three men. we four had the exact same job. my pay was 40% less than theirs. i had been shortchanged for no other reason than i had been born the wrong sex. i was a woman. the jury found that i had been discriminated against, but of course goodyear appealed and then we were notified we would be heard in the supreme court. i looked at the court make-up, but that's when justice alito had just gone on the bench. justice ginsburg at the time was the only female left. justice alito read the opinion. he said i was definitely discriminated against, but i had
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not filed my charge timely, that i waited too late to file my charge. >> justice ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion. >> the court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination. congress intended to govern real world practices and that world is what the court ignores today. initially you may not know that men are receiving more. only over time is there strong cause to suspect that discrimination is at work. >> she's hit the nail on the head because she definitely said they do not know what it's like in the real world. >> today the ball again lies in congress's court -- >> -- to correct the error into which the court has fallen. >> she was laying down a marker for congress. >> and in fact federal law was changed because of her dissent.
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>> three-fifths of the senators having voted in the affirmative, the bill is passed. [ applause ] >> it is fitting that the very first bill that i sign, the lily ledbetter fair pay restoration act, is upholding one of this nation's founding principles, that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness. [ applause ] >> ruth and i were in new york city to see the play "proof." and as we walked down the aisle to our seats, what seemed like the entire audience began to applaud. many stood. ruth beamed.
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i beamed, too, leaned over and whispered loudly, "i bet you didn't know there's a convention of tax lawyers in town." well, without changing her bright smile, ruth smacked me right in the stomach. i give you this picture because it fairly captures our nearly 50-year happy marriage during which i have offered up an astonishing number of foolish pronouncements and ruth has ignored almost every one. >> well, i think part of the time when he was sick she was in denial. he just became weaker and weaker, the way people get sick when they're close to dying. but she somehow knew how to turn
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off those tear ducts in public. she steeled herself for it. >> i found this letter next to marty's bed in the hospital. "my dearest ruth, you are the only person i have loved in my life, setting aside a bit parents and kids and their kids. what a treat it has been to watch you progress to the very top of the legal world. i have admired and loved you almost since the day we first met at cornell some 56 years ago. the time has come for me to take leave of life because the loss of quality now simply overwhelms. i hope you will support where i come out, but i understand you may not.
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i will not love you a jot less." >> we met on a blind date in 1950. the truth was it was a blind date only on ruth's side. i cheated. i asked a classmate to point her out in advance. oh, she's really cute, i perceptively noticed. and then after a couple of evenings out i added, "and boy, she's really, really smart." in the intervening 53 years nothing changed.
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>> where are we headed? >> after a period of very justified mourning, she sort of relaunched herself into her work and filled the time that she would have spent with my grandfather with work, both to distract herself from his absence, but also to honor him. >> marty was her life, and her children and grandchildren who have a life of their own. she's very much interested in arts and loves to go to those things. and then she'd go to them and at the end of the evening works until 4:00 in the morning. >> it's called a woman warrior.
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any kind of battle you bring to her, she's ready for it. it's considered one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed. but by 5-4 the u.s. supreme court today took the teeth out of a law enacted nearly 50 years ago. >> the voting rights act has policed voter discrimination but today's decision effectively puts it on hold. >> chief justice john roberts summarized his opinion of four telling words, "our country has changed." >> justice ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion. >> race-based voting discrimination still exists. this court's decision -- >> -- is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet. >> she called out the majority and said this makes zero sense. the entire reason that racial discrimination in voting is not happening is because we have this very important law.
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>> i was righteously angry right alongside with her. >> her dissent was the introduction for many young people for how important the court is in our daily lives. i pulled up photoshop and did the design in 15 minutes. >> i pulled one of the slogans. the one that kept coming back to me was you can't spell truth without ruth. >> a friend of mine posted to facebook saying wow, justice ginsburg sure can write, hashtag notorious rbg. so i start aid tumblr and called it "notorious rbg." >> she's known to fans the world over as the notorious rbg. ♪ yeah ♪ this album is dedicated to all the teachers who told me i'd never amount to nothing ♪ >> i do know where the notorious rbg came from. it was a rapper, the notorious b.i.g. ♪ you never thought that hip
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hop would take it this far >> people ask me, don't you feel uncomfortable being with a name like the notorious b.i.g.? why should i feel uncomfortable? we have a lot in common. [ cheers and applause ] first and foremost, we were both born and bred in brooklyn, new york. >> young people are really craving different kinds of icons. realizing that somebody like rbg has been doing her job for decades and being forceful and speaking truth to power kind of blows my mind. >> the big win for conservatives in the hobby lobby case. >> justice ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion. >> the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by
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their ability to control their reproductive lives. >> we were all so hungry to hear from ruth bader ginsburg. >> every time justice ginsburg wrote a dissent the internet would explode. >> justice ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion. >> justice ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion. >> my dissenting opinion -- >> i dissent. >> dissent. >> dissent from today's decisions. >> you just had to put the words ruth bader ginsburg and it would get shared compulsively. >> she's become such a rock star, and she enjoys it. >> to see people wear notorious rbg t-shirts or other paraphernalia with her face on it is weird. >> she'll say, did you get the
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gift? i did. i'm wearing it. >> tattoos, yeah. i had a picture of one of the tattoos. i showed it to her and she goes, why would you do something so permanent. >> here now to comment is ruth bader ginsburg. all right. justice coming in hot. >> i'm ready to rumble. mayweather-pacquiao style. i float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. i clean myself like a fly. >> it's so unlike mom, but i don't think mom -- an accurate imitation of mom would be that funny. >> you think she watches them? >> i don't think she ever has watched television. >> i don't know if she knows how to turn -- >> she watches the news hour at the gym. >> but that's in the court. does she know how to turn on the television at home? >> i don't think so. >> here to explain is the supreme court ruth bader ginsburg. >> that's "saturday night live." >> i like my men like i like my decisions. five four.
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that's a third degree gins-burn! >> it's marvelously funny. >> remind you of yourself? >> not one bit. except for the collar. >> what about the state of the union where you were caught sleeping? >> no, i wasn't sleeping. i was giving in to the weight of my glasses. >> watching the "state of the union" and i notice that her head is drooping a little bit, and she might have dozed off a minute or two. after that happened i called her up and said bubbe, you were asleep during the state of the union, you can't do that. >> you went to the state of the union and you fell asleep. >> as i often do. the audience for the most part
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is awake because they're bobbing up and down all the time. and we sit there, stonefaced, sober judges. but when that -- at least i wasn't 100% sober. >> see does look vulnerable. she is this tiny little person. and that is somehow in contrast with being the ferocious defender of minorities and women and certain kinds of ideals. >> there's always i think the concern can she continue to keep up this pace. >> well, she's now been through two different types of cancer without missing a day on the bench. >> i had my first cancer bout in 1999, colorectal cancer. it was a year of surgery and then chemotherapy. ten years later i had pancreatic
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cancer. i think what it has left me is an enhanced appreciation of the joys of being alive. >> what i want you to do is just grab them and just pull. >> just standing up straight? >> yep. and just pull. don't lean back. good. just pull. pull. >> this is light. >> i know. i know. i've got a heavier one. >> this is too late. >> i've got a heavier one. >> i started training justice ginsburg back in 1999. she had just come out of chemotherapy, and she wanted to build muscle and get stronger. she's like a cyborg, and when i say cyborg, she's like a machine. ♪ >> lane back. good. and pull yourself up. exactly. good. bring the chest down to the ball. good. >> they're real push ups, right?
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they're not girl push-ups. >> no, they are very real, yes. >> i've heard that she does 20 push-ups three times a week or something. i mean, we can't even get off the floor. we can't even get down to the floor. >> that's true. >> i always feel better no matter how tired i am. at the end of that hour, i'm ready to go again. >> she definitely embodies the larger than life nature of the notorious title more and more as she gets older. >> she's become much more public, much more vocal. >> especially in a time where our politics are just so garbage. >> justice ruth bader ginsburg spoke fearfully of a donald trump presidency. >> an unusually candid political outpouring, calling trump a faker. >> justice ginsburg made some very, very inappropriate statements toward me. >> i was flabbergasted.
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it surprised me that she would comment in a derogatory way against any candidate for president. it's inappropriate. >> it's not just a matter of decorum. it's a matter of her not understanding her constitutional role. >> she's just come out and issued an apology. >> you released a statement that read, "judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office." but do you really regret the substance of what you said? >> i think the best -- the wisest course would have been to say nothing. >> is it wrong for supreme court justices to occasionally make a mistake? no. they're human beings. and she's a human being and she apologized for it. >> it is quite possible that many, many executive orders or other things that a president has supported or done are going to come before the supreme court, and that now we have a sitting justice indicating that that person has a deep antipathy
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against the lawmaker. >> the notion that i don't comprehend that my job is to interpret the law fairly, that i am going to vote one way based on who i might have voted for president is just -- none of us, even if we wanted to, could be successful if that's the attitude that we have. ou see? i see an unbelievable opportunity. i see best-in-class platforms and education. i see award-winning service, and a trade desk full of experts, available to answer your toughest questions. and i see it with zero commissions on online trades. i like what you're seeing. it's beautiful, isn't it? yeah. td ameritrade now offers zero commissions on online trades. ♪
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you look marvelous. >> knowing that we were opening on the saturday after the election, i wanted somebody who was a washington insider to play the duchess of krakenthorp. >> the best of the house of krakenthorp -- >> there are very few operas that have speaking parts, and the duchess of krakenthorp was one such part. so i wrote basically my own lines for the duchess of krakenthorp. ♪
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>> the best of the house of krakenthorp have open but not empty minds. no surprise, then, that the most valorous krakenthorpians have been women. [ cheers and applause ] a krakenthorp at all times must conduct herself with dignity and grace. we now request certain essential documents. have you brought your niece's birth certificate? [ cheers and applause ] [ speaking french ] >> ours is a family wildly trumpeted, hence we must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.
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[ cheers and applause ] >> justice ginsburg, i think everyone expected you to retire soon. i mean, you're 83. >> yeah, you're damn right i was going to retire. but not now. not now. now i've got to stay alive and healthy, damn it. give me my thing. excuse me, i'm taking my vitamins. >> oh, my god. that's a packet. >> justice ginsburg, let me ask you a tough question. there were liberals who publicly urged you to retire two, three years ago so that president obama could name a replacement.
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any second thoughts about not doing that? >> i've said many times that i will do this job as long as i can do it full steam. and when i can't, that will be the time that i will step down. >> she has found her voice on the court. she is a center of power on the court and off the court. >> when the history books are written, an enormous amount will be about what she did as a very young lawyer. >> there would not have been the legal status of women today had it not been for her work in the '70s. she changed everything. >> the gender line helps to keep women not on a pedestal but in a cage. >> ruth's work made me feel as if i was protected by the u.s.
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constitution for the first time. >> men and women are persons of equal dignity and they should count equally before the law. >> she may be small, but she's got a firm backbone. >> it's been a long road for her, and she's fought really hard all the way down it. she's not done fighting. >> looking back over my long life, yes, we may be in trying times, but think how it was. when i went to college, there was a big red scare in our country. some people on our congress saw a communist in every closet and on every corner. but it impressed me there were lawyers reminding our congress that we have freedom of speech and of the press. so i thought that was a pretty good thing to do. to help keep our country in tune with its most basic values.
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now is the busiest season for the court. all dissenting opinions have to be circulated, and i have a few of those still to go. >> one of the world's greatest jurists, judge learned hand, said that the spirit of liberty that imbues our constitution must lie first and foremost in the hearts of the men and women who compose this great nation. a community where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. i will keep that wisdom in the front of my mind as long as i am capable of judicial service. >> oyez, oyez, oyez. the court is now sitting. ♪
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♪ when you've taken all you can take, and you're sure you can never catch a break and the tears are rivers running down your face ♪ ♪ when you think you've gone as far as you can get and you're too run down to take another step ♪ ♪ i will take up the struggle, oh i'm going to fight ♪ ♪ so i'll fight, stand and defend you ♪ ♪ take your time, that's what i'm here to do ♪ ♪ i need you to be strong
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♪ i'll fight ♪ justice ruth bader ginsburg's chair in the u.s. supreme court draped in black. meanwhile, a political row simmering over who takes her place. plus, the u.s. on the cusp of seeing 200,000 people die from the coronavirus. that as the cdc issues new guidance about airborne transmission. and fires rage in wetlands as traditional farming methods and climate change combine to permanently change large swaths of south america. welcome to our viewers joining us here in the united states and, indeed, all around the world. you're watching "cnn newsroom." i'm michael holmes.


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