Age is but a number, was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's message on Tuesday. In a new conversation with NPR, the 86-year-old Supreme Court justice suggested that neither her age nor her health are going to slow her down. And she's had her share of scares, including three bouts of cancer and broken bones. It's all apparently given a few of her critics a chance to wish for her speedy demise.
Once, when she was battling pancreatic cancer, Ginsburg said a male senator (who she did not name) said she'd be dead within six months. She returned that message with some humor.
"There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced, with great glee, that I was going to be dead within six months," Ginsburg recalled during the NPR discussion. "That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I," she added with a smile, "am very much alive."
Ginsburg took a spill last year in her office and suffered a few broken ribs. While at the hospital, doctors discovered cancer cells. Her prompt surgery following the discovery removed the cancerous nodules. A decade earlier, she beat pancreatic cancer.
Democrats will like to hear that RBG plans to stick around, but they may not like her other comments on the future of the Court. A fair number of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have left the door open for expanding the court beyond the traditional nine. Beto O'Rourke has mentioned a number as high as 15.
“What if there were five justices selected by Democrats, five justices selected by Republicans, and those ten then picked five more justices independent of those who chose the first ten?” O’Rourke said in March. “I think that’s an idea we should explore.”
Ginsburg poured water on that suggestion.
"Nine seems to be a good number," she said. "It's been that way for a long time. I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court."
She'll be happy to know that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced a constitutional amendment to keep it at nine.
To other critics, Ginsburg can now simply say she's following the advice of the late Justice John Paul Stevens, whom she recently saw in Portugal.
"I said that my dream is that I will stay at the court as long as he did," she said. "And his immediate response was, 'Stay longer!'"