How Liberals See the Rehnquist Legacy
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the 16th chief justice of the United States, died on Saturday evening, some four hours ago, at his home in Arlington, Virginia, surrounded by his three children. The liberal media has defined him by two events they see as the most controversial since he joined the court 33 years ago. It is not hard to guess which two events they would choose. These are not exactly the same court cases that would come to mind to a conservative if asked. But, then again, conservatives are not printing the newspages. Here is what we will be hearing about William Rehnquist this next week:
“This (5-4) majority has persistently used its one-vote margin to move the constitutional and legal clock back toward the 1920s,” adds American University law professor Herman Schwartz, editor of “The Rehnquist Court: Judicial Activism on the Right.”
Schwartz also cites the still-unfolding consequences of the Rehnquist court’s singular decision to step into that most political of arenas – presidential politics.
The ruling in Bush v. Gore not only stopped Florida and its courts from conducting a 2000 vote recount, effectively awarding the election to George W. Bush; the five-justice majority also refused to trust the outcome to the House even though it is the constitutionally chosen branch for counting and resolving disputed state electoral votes.
The New York Times repeats a familiar theme that the country is likely to hear over and over about the Chief Justice:
In 1999, he presided over Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial from the presiding officer’s chair seat in the Senate, something only one other chief justice had done. A year later he was one of five Republican-nominated justices who voted to stop presidential ballot recounts in Florida, effectively deciding the election for Bush over Democrat Al Gore.
According to the New York Times still today it was not the people (of Florida) who decided who would be president in the numerous recounts that all went to President Bush, it was the Supreme Court!
Bush selected a conservative, white male to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, so he will face pressure to name a woman or a Hispanic next time. When O’Connor leaves, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the sole female on the court.
Before Bush nominated Roberts, almost six in 10 Americans polled said it was important for him to nominate a woman. Laura Bush urged her husband to appoint a woman to fill O’Connor’s seat. And the retiring O’Connor, the first female justice, said Roberts was “first-rate” but not a woman.
Politics will play a role, too. If Bush wants to put an ultraconservative on the high court, his nominee will have to weather a confirmation brawl in the Senate. With approval ratings the lowest of his presidency, Bush may not be ready for that.