Linda Greenhouse Asks If Amy Coney Barrett is "Living Phyllis Schlafly's Unrealized Dream"

An excerpt from Greenhouse's new book, Justice on the Brink


Noah Feldman, who has been getting a lot of play recently in the New York Times, reviewed Linda Greenhouse's new book, Justice on the Brink. He flagged a passage in which Greenhouse compares Justice Barrett to Phyllis Schlafly. I caved and downloaded the Kindle version of the book. Here is the passage:

Forty years later, more than a few people looked at Amy Coney Barrett and saw Phyllis Schlafly. And how could they not, given the similarities in the two women's biographies? That Schlafly and Barrett, one in death and one striding toward a bright future, both filled the public screen in 2020 was just a coincidence—or was it? Seen from one perspective, it was Phyllis Schlafly who made Amy Coney Barrett possible.

During Barrett's confirmation hearing, Lindsey Graham served her a softball question: "People say that you're a female Scalia. What would you say?" Barrett began her answer with her now familiar phrases about Scalia's approach to constitutional and statutory interpretation. Then she caught herself. "I want to be careful to say," she told Graham, "that if I'm confirmed, you would not be getting Justice Scalia. You would be getting Justice Barrett." No one could doubt the validity of that statement. Justice Barrett, not Justice Scalia. Justice Barrett, not Justice Ginsburg. Or Justice Barrett, living Phyllis Schlafly's unrealized dream?

Feldman opines:

Maybe because it's hard to write a drama in which the villain hasn't done anything terrible yet, Greenhouse makes an uncharacteristic misstep in a brief excursus that compares the new justice to the late Phyllis Schlafly. To be sure, Schlafly was an important figure in the early anti-abortion movement. But her anti-feminist crusade against women in the workplace sits oddly with Barrett's lifelong pursuit of a full-time career as a law professor and judge while raising seven (no, that's not a typo) children. The only motivation for the invocation of Schlafly seems to be that, as Greenhouse notes, she was the subject of a television mini-series in 2020, and that both were lawyers with large families. "Forty years later, more than a few people looked at Amy Coney Barrett and saw Phyllis Schlafly," Greenhouse writes, with no indication of who those people were. "And how could they not, given the similarity in the two women's biographies?" This isn't even guilt by association. It's guilt by free association.

I'll try to review the book later.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: November 9, 1942

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  1. I don't see the problem about career. Schlafly herself had a successful career - she was all about telling *other women* to be submissive and docile.

    While I agree it is too early to call it, there are suggestive comparisons to be made.

    1. Such generic comparisons could be made to a hundred million other women not named Phyllis Schlafly.

    2. "she was all about telling *other women* to be submissive and docile."

      Not true at all. Its a left wing distortion of her views.

      Thinking [correctly] that radical feminism was a bad thing for women is not telling them to be submissive or docile.

    3. Modern feminists are about telling lesbians to suck dick when they don't want to. That's pretty submissive and docile.

      1. Twelve is just about sticking up for women 24/7 these days!

      2. Modern feminists are about telling lesbians to suck dick when they don't want to.

        When I was a bit younger, the running joke among crowds that would make Artie's soul itch was "come on, baby, I'm a lesbian too -- trapped in a man's body!" Who knew such lowbrow satire would shortly become indistinguishable from reality?

        1. Reality as defined by Breitbart maybe.

          1. Phyllis Schlafly bad.

            Muslim women "freely" choosing to conver themselves up so as to not be a temptation to men, good! (Take the quotes off freely!)

            Cultural oppression is cultural oppression. Botb should be fought on principle. If one has principles.

          2. Reality as defined by Breitbart maybe.

            Otherwise known as that alt-right rag the BBC.

            But sorry to interrupt with pesky facts -- get on with your poo flinging.

            1. Oh my goodness, an article from the BBC reports that "Some lesbians" say they've been called TERFs for not being into trans persons. Well, that's certainly firm ground to generalize about...what?

              1. Oh my goodness, [watch me try to distract from my original comically incorrect point by spinning up a new one!]

                Lilypads are fun!

              2. Trans people are inherently anecdotes.

  2. I do think that Linda Greenhouse has been getting more extreme in her writings. i no longer hold her in the same regard. She seems to have succumbed to the emotions of the moment...

    1. She has always been a partisan hack.

  3. I wish.

    Phyllis Schlafly is one of the most important figures in US political history, single handily derailing the ERA after 30 states had quickly ratified it. She would have made a great justice.

    1. Which would have had more impact if the Supreme court hadn't then proceeded to read into the 14th amendment all the parade of horribles that Schlafly had used to derail the ERA. Most inconsequential defeat of an Amendment ever, thanks to that.

    2. "She would have made a great justice."

      Who would take care of her husband, house and progeny? Certainly she would disapprove...

    3. And I had no idea that she dreamed of adopting black children.

  4. Greenhouse regularly seems to me be a lazy writer with very little interesting to say. Most journalists who cover the court are quite bad imho.

  5. Stop mansplaining to poor Linda Greenhouse. *She* knows what she means, and that's what counts. If the readers are too stupid to understand, it's their fault for not being smarter.

    1. She knows that she means that she toadies to the DNC script 100%? I can see that.

  6. If anyone is on a "crusade against women," it's the people pushing to eliminate women's bathrooms, women's sports, women's exemption from the draft, etc.

    1. The Right suddenly discovers women!

      1. For some reason, Schlafly and Margaret Thatcher ignored women. In fact, they weren't *real* women at all.

        1. Lol, 'I have black friends! There's Carl and that guy at the grocery store!'

          1. Just because influential conservative women aren't being profiled on NPR doesn't mean they don't exist, you totebag-toting progressive.

            But that's not entirely fair - you can make quite an extensive list of influential conservative women by simply noting those women who make the media erupt in incredulity and outrage. Frequently, the media's Emmanuel Goldstein is an Emmanuela.

            1. Again, lol.
              Me: Conservatives suddenly discover women's sports and safety issues!
              Cal: But whaddaabout Margie Thatcher! We've been into teh womens for a long time!

              1. Lol, just consult your favorite progressive news sites to learn about all the dangerous conservative women out there.

                1. We have lots of womens in our club!
                  Comedy gold.

                2. "Look at my African-American!"

                  1. Sigh. Right-wing women are not the right-wing's female friends, you blathering sexist. They are right-wing women. Do you think that right-wing women haven't discovered women?

                    1. "Look at my woman!"

                    2. Rendering their positions unfalsifiable is the basis of most left-wing rhetorical techniques, 12". Queenie is demonstrating that here.

                    3. I can recall the freakout over all those white wimmens voting for Trump.

                      Not that Trump is a pure conservative or a pure anything, but the white wimminz were supposed to vote for Hillary, who was one of their own.

                      And of course there is the aforementioned media freakout at strong female leaders who have the wrong politics.

                      So, seeing as how the existence of non-PC women is acknowledged on the right and on the left, I'm not sue why Queen A is doing her/his/its gaslighting act.

                    4. "Queenie is demonstrating that here."

                      How so? Spell it out for us.

                    5. "seeing as how the existence of non-PC women is acknowledged on the right and on the left"

                      Uh, is it because I was clearly talking about 'discovering women' in the meaning of discovering women's issues like women's sports and public safety, and so pointing to a right wing woman and going 'hey, there's our woman' is no answer (well, it's an answer, just a very goofy one).

                      It's like when conservative anti-vaccine mandaters go 'they can't make those workers get vaxxed, what about their union rights?' If I go 'wow, conservatives suddenly discover unions' I guess Cal, Brett and 12 will start linking to Jackie Presser in response.

                    6. "discovering women's issues like women's sports and public safety"

                      I'd love to claim the credit for that, but I believe Sam Ervin was already discussing similar issues in 1972.

                    7. Hmmm...going up the thread, I see your initial contribution was

                      "The Right suddenly discovers women!"

                      Which is a fairly broad claim which merits a broad response.

                      But as I said, of the issues mentioned by Grinberg, ERA opponents were discussing women's restrooms and female conscription back in the 1970s.

                    8. It's like when conservative anti-vaccine mandaters go 'they can't make those workers get vaxxed, what about their union rights?' If I go 'wow, conservatives suddenly discover unions' I guess Cal, Brett and 12 will start linking to Jackie Presser in response.

                    9. So you get to change topics (unions!) but I don't?

                    10. "Look at my woman!"

                      "Look at my lack of reading comprehension!"

                  2. You intolerant racists are the ones accusing Winsome Sears of spouting white supremacist ideas. This after calling Larry Elder "the black face of white supremacy".

            2. " Just because influential conservative women aren't being profiled on NPR doesn't mean they don't exist, you totebag-toting progressive. "

              Big talk about right-wing womanry from a superstitious, avid follower of a White, male, movement conservative blog!

              Next, give us the superstitious perspective on how the Catholic Church, evangelical churches, and Orthodox Judaism actually treat women better than equally! Or the conservative view of how the number of Republican women in the Senate is actually more impressive than the number of Democratic women, if "understood properly."

              If Republicans want the political benefit of attracting the votes of uneducated males, old-timey Whites, incels, and religious kooks, they must accept the entire wages of misogyny.

              Quit while you're behind, clinger. Or not. Either way, you are are will remain behind.

              1. I recall you admitting that you, yourself, are white and male.

                1. Great point!

                  If you guys don't keep your gloves up, the culture war isn't going to get any better for you.

                  1. I thought the culture wars were were a trick by crafty corporations to fool the poor and middle classes into voting against their own interests.

                    1. What's the matter with Kan...I mean Kirkland?

                    2. The culture war is the liberal-libertarian mainstream's longstanding campaign to diminish multifaceted bigotry, backwater superstition, old-timey ignorance, unearned privilege, and other stale, ugly conservative preferences in our society.

                      It would be tough to argue with such important and enjoyable success.

        2. "For some reason, Schlafly and Margaret Thatcher ignored women. In fact, they weren't *real* women at all."

          Sigh. If you would do the work and bone up on your critical theory, you would understand. Any academic expert in these issues knows that sometimes "[t]here is a [female] mouth moving, but a [male] idea running on the runway of the tongue..."

          If you just understood more about critical theory, you would understand the scholarly concept of patriarchy by ventriloquist effect.

      2. Now that you have shown yourself to be capable of snark, what is your position about whther men who have "transitioned" to being women should be permitted to compete against women (or, in high school, teen-age girls) in women's sports?

        Or is your snark meant to avoid this conflict of wokeness in you?

      3. Queen thinks women and black people are only allowed to vote "the right way", or else they're not really people.

        Queenie's stupidity is at least far more entertaining than Artie's broken record nonsense.

    2. If you weren't such a sexist, you'd realize that these are are necessary sacrifices to be made if we are to achieve a better world.

  7. I think the ERA marked the last time the progressive community tried to change the constitution through constitutional processes.

    They were forced to change the constitution via court decision, Congressional statute, etc., because the public was too dumb to accept change via the amendment route.

    So, really, it's the fault of all the dumb clingers.

    1. Nah. " the People's Rights Amendment, introduced on November 15, 2011 by Representative James P. McGovern;[51] the Saving American Democracy Amendment, introduced on December 8, 2011 by Senator Bernie Sanders;[52][53][54] and the We the People Amendment, introduced in the 113th (February 23, 2013), 114th (April 29, 2015), and 115th (January 30, 2017) Congresses by Representative Rick Nolan and in the 116th (February 22, 2019) by Representative Pramila Jayapal."

      1. And those were all serious attempts at constitutional change, not simply political gestures.

        1. What was unserious about them? The fact that they were dead due to GOP roadblocking?

          1. I mean if they found out their amendments had actually passed, they'd have been as utterly astounded as anyone.

            And it's not like they're waiting for these amendments to be ratified before acting *as if* the existing constitution were already superseded.

            1. Yes, they'd be surprised is the GOP stopped roadblocking. I agree no one expects that anytime soon.

          2. Can you explain the difference between "roadblocking" and "opposing?" Other than the former is when you disagree with a position, and the latter is when you agree with it.

            And while we are on the subject, those amendments would strip corporations of all Constitutional rights. Do you think a proposal that would mean that NY Times, Inc. has no freedom of speech, that an incorporated religious body has no freedom of religion, and that the government can appropriate the property of any corporation without compensation, is remotely sane?

            1. Well, of course they'd need one or two minor carve-outs for public-service corporations like the New York Times, Google, and maybe a few others who contribute enough to Congressional campaigns. But no *other* corporation should have rights.

      2. "introduced", "introduced", "introduced".

        McGovern's "People's Rights Amendment. Action in Congress: "Introduced". Any votes? Nope, just "introduced".

        Sanders' Saving American Democracy amendment. Action in Congress: "Introduced". Any votes? Nope, just "introduced".

        Nolan's We The People Amendment. Actions in Congress? "Introduced", repeatedly.

        Are you going to try to tell us that just introducing an amendment, and never even taking it as far as people voting on it, is a serious attempt to amend the Constitution?

        1. They're not going to schedule a vote when it's certain to be filibustered.

          1. Those are some astonishing psychic powers you've got there. Not only can you read the collective minds of just under 50% of the country (the half that disagree with you, no less), you can predict the future behaviors of 100 career politicians. Tell us - do you use tea leaves? The entrails of a chicken? Divine revelations based on the positions of the stars? Because there's surely no logic, evidence or history to support those proclamations.

            1. The race does not always go to the swiftest, nor the debate to the better argument, nor the match to the stronger . . . but that is how the smart money bets.

              Not Rossami, though. He just shrugs and says 'who can know the future? It's all up to the gods, or something.'

          2. "it's certain to be filibustered"

            Why would a 60 vote threshold procedure be used when it takes 67 votes to pass an amendment?

            Like a parrot: Ach, filibuster!, Ach, Mitch Mcconnell!

          3. This may shock you, Queenie, but sometimes people who believe a bill is a good idea, and popular, lift a finger to get it voted on. You know, so that the people opposed have to expose themselves as opposed to the popular good idea? And because when you believe in something, you actually try to advance it?

  8. "Guilt by free-association"!

    Gotta love that.

    (Didn't Monty Python have a skit about 'word-association-football'?)

    1. Don't know about a Monty Python skit but it's an established therapeutic technique used in a variety of the talk-therapy branches of psychology.

  9. "Forty years later, more than a few people looked at Amy Coney Barrett and saw Phyllis Schlafly," Greenhouse writes, with no indication of who those people were.

    A "few" generally means at least three, so "more than a few" means at least four.

    Challenge to Greenhouse: name four people who made that association prior to your column.
    Or admit that you are a lying hack that does not deserve to cover dog-catchers' court, let alone SCOTUS.

  10. No one had an "anti-feminist crusade against women in the workplace". Schlafly never opposed women in the workplace.

    "both were lawyers with large families" -- neither were practicing lawyers. Barrett was a law professor and judge. Schlafly was a political activist with a law degree.

    "it was Phyllis Schlafly who made Amy Coney Barrett possible." -- Greenhouse goes on to tell a story about Barrett being an independent female with her own opinions. Okay, but what is the point here? Is Greenhouse trying to say that feminists/liberals/Democrats encouraged women to have careers, but only to echo leftist opinions? That only Schlafly made it possible for Justice Barrett to be Justice Barrett?

  11. “I'll try to review the book later.”

    Don’t waste your time.

  12. Liberals claim to be all about women's freedom, but they mean freedom to do and say what THEY think is appropriate instead of what the evil Right thinks is appropriate. In both cases, you're just out of luck if you're a woman who wants to think for herself. As a moderate conservative woman, I find the left's current dogma is far more controlling and indeed infantilizing of women than the right's.

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