ABC Nightline Anchor Agrees With Newsweek Columnist: Sarah Palin Owes Her Career to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Twitter can be a very revealing place to learn about "objective" journalists. ABC Nightline anchor Terry Moran tweeted on Tuesday there was a "Great piece" by Newsweek columnist Dahlia Lithwick on the liberal site Slate.com suggesting that Sarah Palin owed her every success to the real Mama Grizzly, leftist Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who never found an abortion she wouldn't defend. Palin was a fraud next to the real feminist. But Moran (and Lithwick) blamed their fellow liberals for not supporting a left-wing Palin figure: 

In a thoughtful piece in the New York Times, Anna Holmes and Rebecca Traister argued that Democrats have given up on full-throated feminism, and in doing so have ceded the field to Palin and her clan of Grizzlies. Holmes and Traister point out the irony that it was progressives who launched Palin's meteoric rise: "As a teen, she played basketball thanks to Title IX; as an adult, she enjoyed a professional life made possible by the involvement of her load-bearing husband Todd, entering Alaska's governor's mansion at 42 with four children in tow and giving birth to a fifth while there."

Democrats gave on on "full-throated feminism" as Obama plopped two hard-core female abortion advocates to the Supreme Court? That's just odd. Lithwick didn't include this paragraph in her article, which was the central thought of the Holmes/Traister piece: 

Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership. And despite (or because of) their continuing obsession with Ms. Palin, they have done nothing to stop an anti-choice, pro-abstinence, socialist-bashing Tea Party enthusiast from becoming the 21st century symbol of American women in politics.
ABC's Terry Moran no doubt agrees with that sentiment, too. But Lithwick only built on the notion that Palin owes Justice Ginsburg in a major way: 

To which I would just add that Palin and the Mama Grizzlies also owe a debt of thanks directly to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who almost single-handedly convinced the courts and legislatures to do away with gender classifications in matters ranging from a woman's right to be executor of her son's estate (Reed v. Reed, 1970), to a female Air Force lieutenant's right to secure housing allowances and medical benefits for her husband (Frontiero v. Richardson, 1973), and the right of Oklahoma's "thirsty boys" (her words) to buy beer at the Honk n' Holler at the same age as young women (Craig v. Boren, 1976).

It was in Craig v. Boren that Ginsburg secured the court's agreement that—in her words—the "familiar stereotype: the active boy, aggressive and assertive; the passive girl, docile and submissive" was "not fit to be written into law." The seed for Sarah Palin was sown. And whether Palin wants women to be allowed to buy beer at 18, or 21, or not at all, the fact that the legal system doesn't care whether you're a woman or a man anymore changed her life. You can draw a straight line between Ginsburg's fight against these seemingly harmless gender classifications that were rooted in seemingly harmless gender stereotypes and the Mama Grizzlies who roam our political landscape today.

Those who like to believe they have picked themselves up by the bootstraps sometimes forget that they wouldn't even have boots were it not for the women who came before. Listening to Palin, it's almost impossible to believe that, as recently as 50 years ago, a woman at Harvard Law School could be asked by Dean Erwin Griswold to justify taking a spot that belonged to a man. In Ginsburg's lifetime, a woman could be denied a clerkship with Felix Frankfurter just because she was a woman. Only a few decades ago, Ginsburg had to hide her second pregnancy for fear of losing tenure. I don't have an easy answer to the question of whether real feminists are about prominent lipsticky displays of "girl-power," but I do know that Ginsburg's lifetime dedication to achieving quiet, dignified equality made such displays possible....

This is what Terry Moran calls the "hard work of real feminism," but ignored the fringier parts of Ginsburg's resume, like her advocacy in the 1970s for the sex-integration of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and of prisons, and of Mother's Day and Father's Day. Or her belief in a constitutional right to prostitution. Or her recent declaration to The New York Times that Medicaid should have paid for abortions since "there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of."

Lithwick concluded her ABC-endorsed "great piece" with a love pat: 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn't growl and doesn't issue threats, and she rarely eats small forest dwellers. But she is still the mother of all grizzlies to me.

[Ginsburg caricature by Kerry Waghorn]

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis