Friday, September 09, 2005I've hesitated to make any comments about Chief Justice Rehnquist's demise, but there's been far too much worshipping coverage for me to remain silent. What is it with the press wanting to say that anyone dead was a Great Man?
I have no idea what Rehnquist was like as a person. I can only evaluate his influence on the Court system. And from that point of view, Rehnquist was at best irrelevant and at worst pernicious. Pernicious in that the doctrines he pushed are profoundly antithetical to the vein of 20th century jurisprudence. Irrelevant in that he was one of the most ineffective Chief Justices in the history of the Supreme Court. I mean seriously, how often was this dude in the minority? 90% of the time? He, Scalia, and Thomas have been the wacky wight wing on the court for a decade now.
Great Chief Justices use their legal acumen and political skill to steer the court through the political shoals of the era in a direction favorable to their ideology. What has Rehnquist done? Presided over to erosion of the Court both in popular esteem and political independence. And to the degree that the Court's jurisprudence has moved in his ideological direction, it has to do with court-packing by conservative Presidents rather than Rehnquist's own political skill.
Sorry, but Rehnquist is no great figure. He's simply a politically connected hack lawyer who got lucky.