Of course it was a show. Lights, music, a triumphant curtain call. President Trump was the producer. But the star of the evening said she would not be beholden to his direction. She would not be like so many others — in his Cabinet, in his party, in his inner circle.

On her momentous night, in front of God and country, this is what Amy Coney Barrett promised Monday.

“My fellow Americans, even though we judges don’t face elections, we still work for you. It is your Constitution that establishes the rule of law and the judicial independence that is so central to it. The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences,” Barrett said when she took the constitutional oath as the newest Supreme Court justice.

She did her best to publicly wrestle her reputation and her life story out of the president’s clutches. She tried to extricate her religion from his showmanship, her curriculum vitae from his endless stream of talking points. Moments after she swore to God that she’d defend the constitution, she felt compelled to make clear in her own brief remarks that she would be independent of the man who nominated her — the ringmaster of a political circus — as well as the Republican legislators who hoist him high as they kowtow to his every whim.

She stood at center stage, in her plain black dress, and accepted the plaudits. Then told the president for whom everything is theater and hyperbole and performance, that she took this all quite seriously. For her, it wasn’t just a show.

Trump has fed off the earnestness of the faithful and the fanatics, the disenfranchised laborer and the ambitious business owner, the powerless and the power hungry. If he is sincere in any one aspect, it’s that everyone is a bit player in his lavish production; they are his affirming Greek chorus. From his first campaign rallies to his most recent ones, he’s stoked his supporters’ anger until their racism is unleashed. He’s advanced the belief that Christianity is under assault even as he’s made a mockery of it with his talk of vengeance and with his blind eye to faith, hope and charity. The insecurity of millions, their sincere faith and their searching hope are his props and his tools — his steppingstones to power.

And in Barrett, he found an enormous boost.

Because she is a woman, she serves as his evidence that he is respectful of all women — even though he regularly calls them offensive names and has spoken with delight about assaulting them. Because she is a woman of faith, she is his evidence that he is a man who reveres God — even though he used a church as a prop in a photograph and didn’t even bother to ask the church’s administrators for permission to do so. Because she is a mother of seven — and two of her children were adopted from Haiti — this is his proof that he respects the role of mothers and celebrates diversity — even though he once questioned why the U.S. was accepting immigrants from Haiti, which he referred to as one of several “shithole” countries. Because she is an acolyte of former justice Antonin Scalia, she is Trump’s proof that he respects intellectual rigor — even though he refers to infectious-disease experts who contradict his desires as “idiots” while the country is in the grip of a deadly pandemic.

Barrett was bearing a lot of weight as she stood there on the south portico with her left hand on the Bible and her right hand raised. The public ceremony marking her confirmation was as theatrical as they come. Events for previous nominees Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh were more modest affairs in the Rose Garden and the East Room. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the constitutional oath against the backdrop of an American flag-draped White House that was aglow in the evening darkness. It was quite a picture for the image-obsessed Trump, standing there between the only Black justice on the court — and one of the most conservative — and Barrett, only its fifth woman.

Later, Barrett, her husband Jesse, the president and first lady — none of them wearing masks — posed for photographs on the Blue Room Balcony. They stood in the near celestial aura of the spotlights. “God Bless America” echoed across the South Lawn where Republican senators — some of whom had helped to speed her nomination through the Judiciary Committee — sat watching the production. (Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered the judicial oath to Barrett privately at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.)

This was a political set piece meant to convey something far more than mere performance of a duty. Trump’s words placed it in the context of righteous destiny — manifest destiny.

“The equal, impartial and constitutional rule of law that we enjoy every day in America is one of the crowning achievements in the history of human civilization,” he said. “It is the triumph of reason, experience, and the values which are eternal and everlasting. Our devotion to this inheritance is what has made America the most just, exceptional and glorious nation ever to exist.”

The president described Barrett’s appointment as something akin to a military victory. One almost expected fireworks to explode overhead along with cannon fire. It was another notch for him and he’d already been bragging about her at rallies. Of course, Trump speaks in business terms: deals and transactions, winners and losers. He speaks of his generals. He prods his attorney general to do his bidding. He boasts of all the federal judges he’s appointed as if they are his own personal judicial posse.

And now, of course, he has his replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg — even as Barrett reminded him of her belief in independence. “A judge declares independence, not only from Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her,” she said.

Barrett is cut from a wholly different cloth than Ginsburg; she is the utter antithesis of the liberal icon. In her groundbreaking work on women’s rights, Ginsburg famously asked that her brethren “take their feet off our necks.” Barrett simply told the president to get off her back.