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tv   US Election 2020 - World Questions  BBC News  September 19, 2020 8:30pm-9:00pm BST

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hello, this is bbc news. the headlines... boris johnson is considering whether to tighten covid—19 measures in england, as the uk records the highest daily amount of virus cases since may. local lockdown restrictions have come into force in some parts of the uk — with bars and restaurants closing early in north east england. tributes are paid as the pioneering us supreme court judge and champion of women's rights — ruth bader ginsburg — dies at the age of 87. seven years after he left north london for madrid — gareth bale is back at tottenham on a season—long loan.
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now on bbc news... with the death of us supreme courtjudge, ruth bader ginsburg, we have a special programme — dissenting opinion: an interview with ruth bader ginsburg. she spoke to razia iqbal at an awards ceremony last year — about her life, career and contemporary america. i, ruth bader ginsburg, do solemnly swear that i will support and defend the constitution of the united states, so help me god. justice ruth bader ginsburg is the leading liberaljudge on the us supreme court. at 86, she has been fighting for decades for women's rights, including for equal pay and fair
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access to abortion. it is no exaggeration to say that her crucial work has effected profound change in the legal status for women in america. and it is for this reason that she has been awarded this year's berggruen prize for philosophy and culture — a prize she will be awarded here at a special ceremony in the new york public library in front of an invited audience. but first, i've been given a rare opportunity to interview rbg — an affectionate nickname — about her career, her popular iconic status, and her hopes and fears for the future of america. ladies and gentlemen, supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg. thank you, thank you so much, everyone, be seated. applause. thank you so much.
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let's start with the prize. this is a prize that you have been given for the impact that you have made to effect social change in this country. what does it mean to you to have won this? i was overwhelmed with the letter inviting me to accept the berggruen prize. as a government officer, i can't accept money for myself. but this was an opportunity to give money to many good causes. i was a bit taken aback because i'm surely not a philosopher. but i do interpret a text.
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the text i interpret most often is the us constitution. applause which i can assure everyone here is indeed a living constitution, because who would want to be governed by a dead constitution? laughter i wonder if i can take you back now to when you first started. and when you graduated from columbia, i wonder what you set out to think about the kind of legal career that you thought you wanted, that you thought you could have. just take us back there. yes, there were nine women out of over 500 in the class. women were 3% of the lawyers in the country.
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there were precious few on any bench, precious fewjudges. and there was no law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender, so legal employers were upfront in saying they didn't want any lady lawyers. and in my case, they certainly didn't want a woman who was already a mother — because my daughter was four when i graduated, almost four when i graduated from law school. so it was the closed—door era. and at the time, did you think that that's what you wanted to do? to devote your career to trying — just to try and break that culture,
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the attitude that "lady lawyers", as you referred to them, were not going to be part of the fabric of the legal establishment? did you think that was what you were going to devote your career to? not when i was in law school. it wasn't until there was a groundswell, women waking up, women in numbers, joining together to change the not—so—good old ways. but it was that — when i got into the... ..the effort to make women citizens of equal stature to men, i was really driven by two forces. one were my students. the feminist movement was reborn
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and my students wanted a course on women in the law. so i went to the library and inside of a month, i read every federal decision that was ever written about gender—based discrimination. it was no mean feat, there was precious little. laughter and then, there were women incoming to the aclu. i was teaching at rutgers university, so women had complaints that they hadn't aired before. one group were teachers who were put on what was euphemistically called "maternity leave" as soon as they began to show. because after all, you didn't want the little children to think that teacher had swallowed a watermelon. laughter but these were women
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who said, "we are ready, willing, and able to work, and there is no reason why we should be forced out of the classroom". and it was the students on the one hand, the new complainants on the other, that drove me into the effort. i wonder if you would reflect for us, in the context of the progress that you made, we've heard about some 300 cases that were taken when you were involved with the american civil liberties union, to do with gender discrimination — six of them were heard by the supreme court, five of which you won. i wonder whether you think that the sorts of progress that was made during your time with the american civil liberties union, whether you think that those things are slowly coming under threat now in the 21st century?
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what was done in the 19705 was, in a sense, easy. because the law books, both federal and state, were riddled with gender—based discrimination differentials. and they all had been rationalized as operating benignly in women's favour. ourjob was to show whatjustice brennan put so well in one of the decisions, that the pedestal on which women were thought to stand more often turned out to be a cage. so the mission in the ‘70s was to get rid of all these gender—based classifications. so in the space of a decade, almost every explicit gender—based classification was gone. it was not there any more.
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and those laws are not going to come back ever. so when you say that we're not going to go back to the kind of gender—based discrimination was eliminated in the ‘70s onwards, i wonder if you would accept that there are laws that were passed then that are under threat now — when you look at the specifics of states in the south of this country, that fair access to abortion is under threat. do you think women need to be — or society as a whole, notjust women — needs to be ever more vigilant? i think society needs to be more active on this issue. the truth is that with all these restrictive laws, the only people who are being restricted are poor women. there are some states... applause
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and you say that because if you have money, you can travel to a state where you would be able to? yes! yes, it's a little bit like divorce was in the old days, when if you had the money to go to nevada and stay there for six weeks, you could get a divorce. now we have no—fault divorce in every state. so no woman of means will ever lack access to abortion in the united states, because there are some states that will offer it. so it's — all the brunt of all these restrictive laws is on poor women. not only if they can't pay the plane fare or the bus fare, they can't afford to take days off
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from work to go. so when you say that society needs to be much more active, how do you feel that...? i think one of the things that happened after roe v wade is that the women who wanted women to be able to control their own destiny, they won, so they retreated. and the other side geared up, and we have the situation that we have today. and i suppose, just pressing you a little on what you would suggest society should do in order to continue with the trend of continued fair access to abortion, what would you...? people should care about it the way they did when many women didn't have access to...
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didn't have the right to choose. anyway, but it is so obvious that the only people restricted are poor women. one day, i think people will wake up to that reality, that we will never have a situation again where a woman of means has any problem.
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the polarisation in society that we see today has been long in the making. and i wonder if you would reflect for us on the role of the supreme court as an institution in an environment — a cultural, social, and political environment — where there is so much ideological polarisation. how would you talk to people about the continued active role of the supreme court in that context? first, it hasn't been so long in the making. think back to the year that i was nominated by president clinton. 1993.
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the vote in support of my nomination was 96—3. orrin hatch, the senatorfrom utah, was my chief supporter on the judiciary committee. my white house handlers were worried about my aclu connection, and i said, "forget it. there's nothing that you can say to me that would lead me to do anything but praise the aclu." there wasn't a single question — not a single question — asked about my aclu work. and as i said, the vote was 96—3. there was no polarisation, congress was working the way it should. there was a true bipartisan spirit. so how did we get back from polarisation now, then? how do we get back? how do we get back to that, but how do you account for it?
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what is it that is the root cause of it, even if it's not been that long in the making? i can't say any more than anyone here can, how this happened. but it's not the way it should be. and i hope that there will be good people on both sides of the aisle who will say, "let's stop this dysfunction and let's work together for the good of the country." applause but it is quite clear that there is a huge lack of that effort — of good people on both sides
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of the aisle coming together. this country is in the throes of an impeachment crisis, and i wonder if you would reflect for us this notion that senators should be impartial when the trial approaches. that this is something that is in the constitution, the impartiality of senators. and that doesn't seem to be something that is likely to happen. well, we shall see what this process turns out. laughter do you think they should be impartial? the house indicts and the senate tries. should a trier be impartial? of course, that is the job of a judge, to be impartial. but you will be very aware
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that there are senators who are already saying, before the impeachment gets to the senate or the trial in the senate, they've already made their minds up. that's problematic. well, if a judge said that, the judge would be disqualified from sitting on the case. laughter applause but it's about the level of accountability, so if a senator says they've already made their mind up and the trial doesn't even exist at the moment, there is no accountability, is there? my old chiefjustice put it very well, and he said, "the day a judge stops being impartial and starts to do things to please the home crowd," or whatever your home crowd is, "that's the day thatjudge should
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step down from office". applause so in that context, what you're saying is that you would urge senators to be impartial? and to act as jurors, as opposed to responding to their own ideological partisanship? that's the role in which the constitution cast the senate for this purpose. they are the triers. we have a process to selectjurors. if a juror reveals a bias, thatjuror will not be chosen. the one who is a judge or a trier must be impartial.
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what is your reading of the constitution in the context of the president of the united states saying that the supreme court should stop this impeachment? this is something that he has tweeted not that long ago, and i wonder what, if anything, exists in the constitution which allows people to interpret that there is — that some sort of response should be made when the head of the country says that the impeachment should stop and the supreme court should intervene. is there a reading that you can present to us? the president is not a lawyer, he's not law—trained. laughter applause you have been spoken about as being even bigger than a rock star. let's talk about the popular iconic status that you have acquired — and your view of it, whether you enjoy it, for a start.
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i think it is an amazing phenomenon. laughter here i am, almost 87 years old, and everyone wants to take a picture with me. applause but i should tell you how it all started. it was started by a second—year student at new york university law school. she started it when the supreme court decided a case involving a key provision of the voting rights act of 1965. the decision was divided. it cut the heart out of the voting rights act. and this young woman was angry. and then, she thought to herself,
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"well, what good is that going to do me, just to be angry? i have to do something positive." so she took the announcement of my dissent that i read from the bench, not the whole long dissent, just the five minutes or so in which i summarised it, and she put it on some kind of a blog. and it took off from there into the wild blue yonder. laughter and she called it the notorious rbg, after the famous rapper, the notorious big, because she decided that the two of us had something very important in common. what we had in common is that we were both born and bred in brooklyn, new york. applause
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you've seen so much change. i wonder what you would say to young people who you talk to all the time, and people come and seek your advice — what would you say to young women who look at your example, and are either despondent in the current climate that progress is not possible — what would you say to them? well, the young people are my hope. and when my granddaughter, who is here tonight, who is doing what she can to make things better in our society, think of malala. malala yousafzai? the swedish... greta thunberg. i think the young people that i see are fired—up, and they want our country to be what it should be.
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so my faith — one of the things that makes me an optimist are the young people. applause justice ginsburg, thank you very much for speaking to us. thank you for being here. applause thank you. the only reason i am here tonight is tojust share the same oxygen as the notorious rbg. oh, come on, she's everything. she's a pioneer, she has stuck her neck out for women and for equality before it was fashionable to do so. i have two daughters. they are never excited about anything i go to. but tonight really meant a lot to them.
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good evening. it has been a day of september centring across most parts of the uk and tomorrow promises more of the same. the majority will be dry was some worms and some sunshine, but there are a couple of exceptions. still one or two so as to deny across the south—west of england and the channel islands and a lot of low credit feeding and a lot of low credit feeding and a lot of low credit for doing from the nazi of central and southern parts of scotla nd central and southern parts of scotland —— low cloud. —— coming in from the central and southern parts of scotland. the far north of scotla nd of scotland. the far north of scotland rather cloudy and we will start tomorrow with low cloud for central and southern scotland, that will retreat towards the coast. northern ireland, much of england and wales fine and dry with long spells of sunshine. 25 in london, we
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see the south. monday, another fine day for the majority. similar on tuesday but cloud and rain into the far north—west.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. the death ofjustice ruth bader ginsburg has put the future of the country's supreme court at the heart of the us presidential election. president trump says his choice of replacement should be ‘speedily approved' setting up a bitter partisan battle. we look back at the life and work of a liberal icon who blazed a trail for women and progressives. also in the programme: boris johnson considers tightening covid—19 measures in england — latest figures show highest daily rate of infection since may. in the slovenian set to be crowned tour de france champion after a dramatic turnaround.

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