Sohrab Ahmari: Amy Coney Barrett is hands-down best pick to replace Ruth Bader GinsburgSeptember 22, 2020
Brit Hume responds to critics of Amy Coney Barrett’s faith, values
Picture a female jurist who has consistently defied social expectations imposed on women and whose legal thinking is closely bound up with her faith. No, I’m not talking about Amy Coney Barrett, reported to top President Trump’s list of candidates to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. I’m talking about Ginsburg herself.
Ginsburg believed fervently that conventional expectations shouldn’t hinder women as they seek their full, fair share of public life. Nor was she shy about how her Jewish faith shaped her judicial mind. In an essay for the American Jewish Committee published in 1993, she wrote: “Laws as protectors of the oppressed, the poor, the loner, is evident in the work of my Jewish predecessors. . . . The biblical command ‘Justice, justice shalt thou pursue’ is a strand that ties them together.”
By those criteria, Barrett would make a most worthy successor to RBG. In nominating the 48-year-old Louisianian, the president would present the nation with an inspiring vision of what it means to be an American woman in 2020 — one that could by turns surprise and captivate the suburban women Trump is keen to court while also delivering for the GOP base.
“Amy represents an opportunity to showcase a generationally brilliant, special intellect — who also is a mom,” says O. Carter Snead, Barrett’s longtime faculty colleague at the Notre Dame law school, where Barrett also received her law degree.
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Her rare combination of hyper-intelligence and humility is a matter of bipartisan consensus. “The smartest person in the room and also the most humble” was how Snead and two other sources intimately familiar with Barrett described her, echoing each other almost verbatim.
Harvard Law School prof Noah Feldman — a liberal who testified before Congress in favor of impeaching the president — hailed her as “a truly brilliant lawyer” in a 2018 column. Feldman should know. He and Barrett were members of the same class of Supreme Court clerks in 1998.
“She was one of the two best lawyers” of the 40 clerks “and arguably the single best.” Feldman concluded: “She was legally prepared enough to go on the court 20 years ago.”
When Trump nominated Barrett to the Seventh Circuit, every single one of those 40 fellow clerks endorsed her as a “first-rate” thinker, including such vehemently anti-Trump figures as Neal Katyal, solicitor general under Team Obama. The entire Notre Dame law faculty likewise endorsed her, “and that includes people who identify as liberal,” as Snead was quick to note.
She is recognized as an expert on how judges are supposed to interpret statutes — a crucial role, as demonstrated by Justice Neil Gorsuch’s bizarre recent reading of “gender identity” into a civil-rights statute enacted in the 1960s. She has also thought deeply about the relationship between the branches of government, a gnarly and seriously important area of law.
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To these achievements Barrett marries a vibrant Christian faith. For the evangelicals and Catholics the president needs to turn out in November, her pro-life bona fides are on display not just in her activities and statements, but also in her own family: She is a mother of seven, including one biological child with intellectual disabilities and two adopted from Haiti.
Yes, Democrats and their media allies will attack and demonize her — viciously. But that’s no reason to nominate other candidates who have no record on life issues. As one conservative activist told me, “the left is going to burn everything down no matter whom we pick, so we might as well get the right person on the court.”
One senior Hill staffer was even blunter: “This late in the game, I’m not interested in today’s version of [George H.W. Bush chief of staff John] Sununu vouching for today’s version of [Justice David] Souter” — i.e., social conservatives don’t want to gamble on a candidate without a clear record on life and religious-liberty questions, only to have the justice with a lifetime appointment turn out to be a liberal squish.
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The inherent dignity of all life is no mere slogan or academic concept for Barrett. Perhaps a large family like hers is unusual for a woman of Barrett’s social class and profession. Then again, as one highly accomplished lawyer put it in 2007, it’s “good for the public to see that women come in all sizes and shapes, just as men do, and they don’t necessarily look alike or think alike.”
That lawyer was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
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