Monday, September 05, 2005

Goodbye, Bill

The coverage of Hurricane Katrina has rightly garnered the lion's share of the headlines this weekend, and in the mass of death and destruction left by the storm, it's tough to justify eulogizing just one person whose death had nothing to do with the hurricane.

But I feel the need to say something about Justice William Rehnquist, who died late Saturday night at the age of 80. He spent 33 years on the Supreme Court, the last 19 of them as Chief Justice. I agreed with almost none of his opinions, but I had more respect for him than I did for Scalia and Thomas. With Rehnquist, it's tough to say that he was pushing some sort of ideology like the other anchors of the Court's right wing - he was deciding cases the way he thought they should be decided, and that was that. Sure, his political conservatism made his decisions inconsistent, but show me a judge whose politics doesn't affect his/her decisions and I'll show you a robot.

Of course, now we have to deal with the acrimony of not one but two confirmation hearings. Glorious. Roberts will probably take over as C.J., at least if Bush has his way. Looking at Roberts as Rehnquist's replacement will likely make his confirmation easier since he'll be a conservative replacing a conservative. The next person nominated - who will doubtlessly be as far right as Roberts and Rehnquist - is going to have a tough road, though, especially with Bush's failing approval ratings and the return of Arlen Specter's maverick ways.

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