Friday, June 29, 2018


Scott Lemieux thinks Ramesh Ponnuru has identified President Trump's Supreme Court pick:
In picking a successor to Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Donald Trump has many fine potential nominees among whom to choose. The top contenders seem to be Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Amul Thapar, all of whom are well-respected conservative judges.

In my view, Trump should pick Barrett.

She is the youngest of the five top choices, which is a mark in her favor given that the nominee will have life tenure and Trump will want one who will leave a lasting mark on the law.
Lemieux writes:
She’s 46, shows every sign of being a reliable party-liner, and having a bunch of Democratic senators vote against a female nominee and having a woman write the opinion overruling Roe both present maximum trolling potential.
That all makes sense -- and there's even more potential for trolling. Last year, when Barrett was up for an appeals court seat, she was questioned in ways that stoked the conservative outrage machine:
One of President Trump’s judicial nominees became something of a hero to religious conservatives after she was grilled at a Senate hearing this month over whether her Roman Catholic faith would influence her decisions on the bench.

The nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor up for an appeals court seat, had raised the issue herself in articles and speeches over the years. The Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee zeroed in on her writings, and in the process prompted accusations that they were engaged in religious bigotry.

“The dogma lives loudly within you,” declared Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, in what has become an infamous phrase. Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, accused his colleagues of employing an unconstitutional “religious test” for office.
At the same time, news reports raised this issue:
... her membership in a small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise never came up at the hearing, and might have led to even more intense questioning.

Some of the group’s practices would surprise many faithful Catholics. Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.

Current and former members say that the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children.
I think Republicans would like to seat a judge who's under 50, who's an anti-choice female, and who's been vilified in a bigoted way (in their view) by Senate Democrats and the press. But last year she was being appointed to a seat on an appeals court. Only people who are very interested in politics and the courts paid attention. But everyone pays attention to Supreme Court picks. She's in a group that has handmaids? Not good, especially when it's for all the marbles and this is an election year. A lot of suburban moderate women are watching Season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale right now.

Also, there's the fact that Barrett wrote an article in 2003 in which she called Roe v. Wade an "erroneous decision."

Susan Collins insists that respect for precedent matters to her:
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Wednesday that she believes Roe v. Wade is settled legal precedent — and she believes judges should respect precedent.

"I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law. It’s clearly precedent and I always look for judges who respect precedent," Collins told reporters on Wednesday, referencing the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
That doesn't mean she'll vote to reject Trump's pick, whoever it is -- of course she'll vote yes. But they'll want to serve her up a nominee who's never expressed opposition to Roe out loud, and who piously insists that precedent is paramount and no firm conclusion on Roe has every crossed his or her (probably his) mind. Then Collins and Lisa Murkowski can blithely vote yes with a clear conscience.

So unless the Republicans' approach now is "Yes, we're dispensing with pretense and avowedly gunning for Roe," they'll pick a dissembler, not Barrett, who will have lost a High Court seat (though not an appellate court seat -- she was confirmed for that) by being too honest.

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