After Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on September 18, and Trump’s announcement soon after that he would nominate a replacement for the high court before the election, Democrats on the Hill and in the media declared war against, well, everything:
Before the riots, these declarations might have been seen as idle threats. Not anymore. If you enjoyed the last four months of civil unrest, violence in the streets, terrorizing innocent people in restaurants, demonizing police officers, declaring half the nation’s population racist, and $2 billion in property damage, you’re going to love Resistance 2: The Meltdown.
While Lagoa seems to be the best choice in terms of politics, Barrett is likely the best in terms of jurisprudence.
For Democrats in the age of Trump, war is simply “the continuation of politics by other means,” as Carl von Clausewitz wrote. There might be metaphorical arrows in Nancy Pelosi’s quiver — and we know everything is on Chuck Schumer’s metaphorical table — but there will be literal buildings on fire and real bodies in the streets if the Left doesn’t get its way.
Before this not-so-cold war gets too hot, however, I have a few questions:
Will any nomination spark the Left’s wrath or just certain ones? Specifically, with regard to Trump’s two apparent front-runners — Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa — does one or the other have a better chance of getting through the confirmation process before the election? Or will both nominees trigger the battle that Democrats seem so eager to wage?
These questions are important because I think the answers may dictate whom Trump will nominate this weekend. If Democrats are open to a good-faith confirmation process, the president might decide to nominate a less polarizing, more politically acceptable nominee — a compromise candidate.
But if Democrats intend to “blow up the entire system” regardless of whom Trump puts forward, he might as well disregard compromise nominees (think Merrick Garland in 2016) and nominate someone who best matches his criteria for an ideal judge. For the president, that judge will be one “in the mold of Justice Scalia” who will “protect our liberty with the highest regard for the Constitution.”
In the past few days, there have been dozens of articles on the relative strengths and weaknesses of Lagoa and Barrett. In my opinion, both would make fine Supreme Court justices.
Amy Barrett, 48, is the Wonder Woman candidate — a brilliant, widely respected, well-published Notre Dame professor whom Trump appointed to the Federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017. Somehow, she and her husband also managed to raise seven children — five biological and two adopted from Haiti. Barrett has been the darling of judicial conservatives for years, and was runner-up to Brett Kavanaugh as Justice Anthony Kennedy’s replacement in 2018. Her admirers in Congress see her as not only a former Scalia clerk but also as a potential Scalia clone.
Her detractors, of course, hate her guts. In 2017, Barrett gracefully endured a grueling and even scandalous interrogation by Senate Democrats — particularly Dianne Feinstein, who told her that her Catholic faith would interfere with her ability to be impartial. “The dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein told Barrett. “And that’s of concern.”
What if she told you she skipped Mass to go to a soccer game last Sunday? Would that help?
In theory, the confirmation process should be streamlined for Barrett, since she went through it three years ago. In reality, though, Democrats will turn the hearings into a Star Chamber, albeit it one in which they have no power to pass sentence. Based on what happened to Kavanaugh, who knows what outrages await Barrett?
Barbara Lagoa, 52, is the daughter of Cuban exiles, a Columbia Law School graduate, long-time judge on one of Florida’s five courts of appeal, the first Hispanic woman on the Florida Supreme Court, and a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit since 2019. She would be the first Cuban on the court, as well as the first Southerner since Clarence Thomas in 1991. She’d also be the first justice since David Souter with state court experience.
With most of her career spent in state court, Lagoa is the bright and feisty dark-horse from a must-win swing state of Florida. If nominated, she would put Democrats on the defensive, forcing them to tear down a Hispanic woman — one overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate a year ago — at a time when the Latino vote might be critical to the election. True, she is basically a blank slate, but she would be the more palatable choice for Democrats and bring some much-needed diversity of experience to the court.
While Lagoa seems to be the best choice in terms of politics, Barrett is likely the best in terms of jurisprudence. Lagoa is more likely to get through the confirmation process without causing any Democrats to light themselves (or others) on fire. By contrast, Barrett — who might be as judicially conservative as Ginsburg was liberal — would cause progressives in the Senate to lose their collective minds.
So who will it be — Lagoa or Barrett?
Well, it depends. If Feinstein, Schumer, Harris, and the other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee tell Trump that they are open to hearings, even if it means confirming a new justice before the November election, then the president might want to consider nominating Barbara Lagoa.
But if Democrats continue to prepare for war — if they don’t rein in their dark fantasies of stacking the court, ending the electoral college, and burning “the entire f—–g thing down,” then Trump might as well nominate the woman he thinks best fits “the mold of Justice Scalia.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that that woman is Amy Coney Barrett.