Perspectives: Justice Amy Coney Barrett

COMMENTARY Courts

Perspectives: Justice Amy Coney Barrett

Oct 28th, 2020 12 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Tommy Binion

Vice President of Government Relations

Thomas is responsible for Heritage's many programs on Capitol Hill and its engagement with the administration.
President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she was sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice on October 26, 2020, in Washington, D.C. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Contributor / Getty Images

Senators Blackburn and Ernst reflect on a successful confirmation process. The Senators also speak about what it means to have the courage of your convictions and give their advice to anyone thinking about public service.

>>> Perspectives: The Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

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Thomas Binion:
Welcome back to Perspectives. The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, I'm Tommy Binion with the Heritage Foundation, and it has been my privilege to be joined the past few weeks by Senator Blackburn from Tennessee and Senator Ernst from Iowa to reflect on the now successful confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Thomas Binion:
Senators, congratulations. It is done. How do you feel? Senator Ernst, how do you feel about what has happened?

Senator Joni Ernst:
Tommy, I am so proud and I know it was really quite an honor being part of the judiciary committee and helping move then Judge Amy Coney Barrett through the process. Now Justice Amy Coney Barrett and I felt so good watching her being sworn in. And I even heard from some of my friends that were texting me and calling me, and one who is a father of daughters. He said, "My chest was swelling with pride thinking about the opportunities that my young daughters would have someday." And seeing that come to fruition through Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
I have to tell you, I think Senator Ernst said it well. This is something that I don't think we realized how closely women and young girls were watching this. But to get the text and the emails from moms and to hear how they were impacted and how their daughters were impacted with this. I think it spoke volumes. The president did a wonderful job in nominating Judge Barrett and she is going to be an amazing justice. She is going to serve the American people well.

Thomas Binion:
I agree. And I think as Americans, we can all be proud of our country. We can be proud of our government. We can be proud of our constitution and the way that it worked this time around. On the other side of a success, it's easy to forget some of the bumps that came along the way. Looking back, way back to the Kavanaugh confirmation after that was done, one of the things that people said was how difficult public life can be.

Thomas Binion:
Brett Kavanaugh volunteered for service. He wanted to serve on the Supreme Court. And as a result, his reputation, his integrity, his family were dragged through the mud because of baseless allegations made against him. And in the wake of that, many people looked around and said, "Who are we going to get to serve when it's this hard?"

Thomas Binion:
but in walks, Amy Coney Barrett and both now and throughout her career, she has shown something that I think both of you two senators have shown throughout your career and that is having the courage of her convictions. What does that mean to each of you to have the courage of your convictions? Senator Blackburn, we'll start with you.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
What it means to me is that I am standing on principles and I am resolute in knowing that those principles are going to not only serve me, but that they have served our nation well. And that comes from knowing there are some things that are absolute truths. And I have to tell you to see the way she has stood through this has just reminded me how many times will tell people when they say, "How can you just let something, some issue of the moment when the Democrats are choosing to disparage conservative women? How do you not let that get you upset?"

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
And I will say because I know that there is a bigger desired outcome and this is temporal, and it's something that is going to pass. And we conservative women, we are a pretty strong bunch because we are constantly belittled and denigrated and ridiculed and mocked. So because of that, you do look to those absolute truths. You do look at the long game and at the long-term effects.

Senator Joni Ernst:
Yeah. I agree, Tommy. Marsha just put it so well. And to have that conviction and that courage in our conviction is really important, because I think there's a distinction when it comes to courage. People think that you're maybe fearless, but that is not always true. It just means while you may have some level of fear or anxiety out there, but because of your conviction, you're driven no matter what. And you can face up to those challenges, you can face up to those fears. And that's what conservative women have had to do now for centuries.

Senator Joni Ernst:
Of course, those wonderful suffragettes that led the way for women a century ago. It's not that they were not afraid. It's just that they had such a strong conviction that drove them to success. And that's exactly what women like Marsha and I and Justice Amy Coney Barrett have had to go through just as Marsha said being belittled, being challenged because of our convictions.

Senator Joni Ernst:
But knowing that we're on the right path, it's just important that we drive on to success. We drive onto those goals and hopefully make that path just a little bit easier for the conservative women to follow.

Thomas Binion:
I think that's absolutely right. And you three as a group, you are collective proof that you don't have to conform to succeed. You don't have to think like a CNN anchor or a New York Times columnist to succeed. You have to be an original and that is what you are, and that is what Justice Barrett is.

Thomas Binion:
In this podcast. We've celebrated Judge Barrett's life, her career, and her success as a woman. The left traditionally focuses on those aspects of identity, but they have completely ignored this historic success that she has had. They've made it about her politics. They have politicized this process, but let's put politics aside. What should Americans be looking for in a Justice? Senator Ernst, we'll start with you.

Senator Joni Ernst:
Well, I think exactly what Justice Barrett exhibited during the hearings all of the last several weeks, just that she is a textualist. She is an originalist, a constitutionalist. The fact that she will take the constitution and the law as written, interpreted as written, not some whatever the flavor of the day attitude is. She is judging our laws by what our forefathers intended them to be. And I think that's really important because you don't know what the flavor feeling of the day is going to be.

Senator Joni Ernst:
And so interpreting the law, according to our constitution is exceptionally important. Her demeanor, her knowledge of case law is absolutely incredible. And you're right that the folks on the left really focus on identity and they try and typecast every single woman into one sort of mold. And folks like Marsha and I, and other conservative women are out there saying, "Listen, we have a much broader perspective. You can choose whatever career path you want. You can choose to marry who you want. You can choose to practice your faith."

Senator Joni Ernst:
The left doesn't necessarily do that. They say women should think all the same. And we want somebody that is much broader in thought than that. And that's what we find in Justice Barrett.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
Yeah, I agree with that. The left is going to consistently choose really intellectual isolation if you will. They want somebody who is going to agree with their agenda. Therefore, they are looking for justices and judges who are going to be activist. Because it gives them a super legislature basically. They can claim they have to do something because the court has decreed that they have to do something. And part of their frustration with Justice Barrett was she would not submit to their agenda. So that was a frustration for them.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
And Tommy, I thought one of the most telling moments of the hearing process was when one of our colleagues on the democratic side of the deus in questioning Justice Barrett said, "My fear and concern is that you are going to usher in an era of conservative activism." I was stunned by the remark, but also I thought, "This guy is totally missing the point." Because conservatives to do not want activism on the bench from either the left or the right. We want somebody who's going to call it right down the middle, abide by the rule of law.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
As Justice Scalia said, "If the law is left-leaning, your outcome is going to be left-leaning. Do not be shocked." So that is the type judge that you are looking for. And what you're going to find is somebody, they're going to look at the constitution. They are going to look at the application of the law within that framework and they're going to make a decision.

Thomas Binion:
I think that's absolutely right. And it puts a spotlight on what it means to be a good justice, a good judge. And it completely obliterates the paradigm of politics of a left versus right. But instead it is about right versus wrong. And what law and the constitution actually says. Senators, I have been meaning to ask you about this since the podcast began, but now it's my first chance.

Thomas Binion:
You both had books that came out this year. They're tremendous books. And they also touch on some of the themes that we have been hitting on in this podcast. I'd like for you each to take a minute to tell us about your books. Senator Blackburn, yours is called the Mind of a Conservative Woman. Tell us about it.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
Yes. It is all about the bias and prejudice that the left in the mainstream media forces on conservative women. And I wrote it because for years I would hear from women, whether they were in corporate life or volunteers in the community or in public service. And they would point out how the media and society treats liberal women one way and conservative women differently. And that they would ridicule and mock conservative women while they elevated and celebrated liberal women.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
And one of the drivers for moving ahead with the book was so many times when I'm speaking to women's business organizations, women will say, "Oh, I'm not political. I'm not a Democrat or Republican. I'm an independent." And I know Joni has gotten this from women also. And I would say to them, "Okay, tell me about the filter. What is important to you when you look at issues and politicians and you make up your mind? What is it that you're looking for?"

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
And they would say, "I want somebody that abides by the constitution, the rule of law. I want somebody who's going to be fair. I believe in equality. I believe in justice. I want government out of my business. I don't want them making my kids school decisions or my healthcare decisions. I want opportunity for everybody." And I thought, "Most women really are in the center or center right," but they hear from the mainstream media that that is a very old-fashioned place to be.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
And of course the left has invested nearly 50 years in the so-called women's movement to convince women that they should be for worker rights. They should be anti-employer. They should be pro-abortion. They should be willing to put the government in charge of key facets of their life. So I decided it was time to write this book and Speaker Newt Gingrich did the foreword on it. It has a history of conservatism and is a good guide book and how to book for women who are in the center, center right to really frame their beliefs and have those discussions with co-workers and friends and relatives about issues that are important to our daily life.

Thomas Binion:
I love it. I can't wait to read it. Senator Ernst, yours is called the Daughter of the Heartland: My Ode to the Country that Raised Me. Tell me about it.

Senator Joni Ernst:
Yeah. Say it is really my personal story and growing up in the heartland on a small family farm in Southwest Iowa. And then going on through some very difficult stages of my life and yet overcoming some of those obstacles going on serving 23 years in the military, serving as a company commander overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Going on to serve and public elected office and in the United States Senate. And I had been approached by so many women and men who had either gone through domestic violence situations or sexual assault. And they had said, "Joni, you've overcome these obstacles in your personal life and you've still gone on to achieve great things. You should be telling this story."

Senator Joni Ernst:
And so bottom line, I want folks to understand the values that I was raised with, faith, hard work and service. And how those things helped me overcome personal obstacles and become a stronger woman, but then to continue to serve my state and my nation in a different way. But I really want men and women out there to understand that you will experience challenges in your lifetime. We can expect that, but you can overcome. No matter what your personal situation is, you can overcome it. And it just comes through that faith, the hard work and service. And so I was glad to put it all into black and white and to be able to share it with not only my constituents, but all of our readers across the United States.

Thomas Binion:
Well to our listeners out there, both of these books should be on your reading list. Last question of our podcast. We have talked a lot about Justice Amy Coney Barrett on this podcast, but we have gotten to know you two senators a lot better as well. And your careers are an inspiration to us. We want to ask you what advice you have to people looking at public service or a public life? Young people looking at your careers and aspiring to them. What advice would you have Senator Ernst?

Senator Joni Ernst:
Well, I would say that there is sacrifice in service. And it's important to recognize that a public life is not easy, but it is absolutely worthy. It takes people stepping up into these positions to serve their states, serve their communities, serve their nation in order to do good for everyone.

Senator Joni Ernst:
And so understand that there will be sacrifices. There will be obstacles and challenges, but it is worthy. And I encourage young folks to consider it. It is something that we need. We need leadership in our future generations and people that are willing to take on that challenge.

Thomas Binion:
Senator Blackburn, same question. What advice would you have to folks who are looking at public service as you've done throughout your lifetime?

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
I would tell them that and encourage them to realize that your skills are a transferable commodity. And skills that you're going to learn when you're in school, when you're volunteering in your first jobs, these are all skills that you can use to your benefit to achieve something wonderful. There's a phrase I use it is called mundane to magnificent. And it is because so many of these tasks that we do that we feel like it's a drudgery, and it's never going to get us to where we want to go.

Senator Marsha Blackburn:
There's a lesson in all of that. So you're not going to hit the limelight quickly. You are going to have to build, put some building blocks in place in order to get where you want to go. But all of that gives you a foundation on which to stand in order to achieve your hopes and dreams.

Thomas Binion:
I love both of those pieces of advice. Senators, you've been extraordinarily generous to the listeners with your time. This has been a really interesting podcast. We're so grateful for your perspective and your service to the country. Thank you. And thanks to the listeners as well.

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