“He was a man of character and dedication. His departure represents
a great loss for the court and for our country.”
-- George W. Bush, on hearing of the death of Supreme Court Justice
Let’s not wring out the tears for William Rehnquist. The man
was the worst Chief Justice to ever serve on the Supreme Court; a complete failure
who disgraced his office and the people he was supposed to serve. Never in the
200-year history of the nation has the high court sustained more damage under
the stewardship of one man.
Rehnquist’s partisan handiwork rigged the 2000 election and set
the country in a downward spiral to ruin. He cobbled together the coalition
of rogue jurists who stripped the Florida Supreme Court of their Constitutionally-guaranteed
right to decide the outcome of state elections and overturned the fundamental
principle of democratic government: the right to have one’s vote counted.
Rehnquist invoked the 14th amendment, the “equal protection,”
clause to elevate his friend George W. Bush to president. Prior to
that, the amendment had never even been used in cases other than racial discrimination.
Legal scholars and attorneys alike scoffed at the shaky reasoning that held
the case together. It was a complete travesty that both Republicans and Democrats
disdained. Rehnquist abandoned every principle of judicial impartiality to shoehorn
a derelict Texan into the Oval Office and to uphold his standing as a charter
member of the ruling class.
Look at the results.
Look what happens when the will of the people is brazenly ignored to
execute an elite agenda.
Iraq, the Cheney Energy papers, 9-11, Enron, Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib,
Falluja, Guantanamo; the long litany of Bush crimes should be inscribed
on Rehnquist’s headstone next to the number of casualties produced by
his partisan blunder.
Rehnquist was an ardent class warrior from his earliest days on the
court. He strongly opposed gay rights, abortion, gun control and affirmative
action, but was a staunch proponent of the death penalty. This tells
us that his sense of justice was shaped by his belief in punishment, not mercy.
Although Rehnquist would zealously defend the right of the state to exterminate
its own citizens, he vacillated on even most basic rights of the individual.
In case after case, the Rehnquist Court bowed to the authority of the
president, allowing Bush to detain foreign nationals without formally charging
them with a crime and permitting the incarceration of “enemy combatants”
indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay subject to a review by handpicked military tribunals.
Rehnquist has repeatedly dodged the Jose Padilla case to allow the president
the tyrannical power of imprisoning an American citizen without honoring habeas
corpus, due process, or the presumption of innocence. His evasion has upended
the fundamental principle of “inalienable rights,” the cornerstone
of the Constitution, and condemned an innocent man to three and a half years
in solitary confinement.
Padilla has never been charged with a crime. It is a disgrace that should enrage
Justice John Paul Stevens summarized the feelings of most Americans who reject
the idea that citizens can be stripped of their rights according to presidential
edict. He said, the results of the Padilla case pose “a unique and unprecedented
threat to the freedom of every American citizen... At stake is nothing less
than the essence of a free society... For if this Nation is to remain true to
the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even
to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny.”
Rehnquist had every opportunity to watch Bush’s dismal war on terror.
He knew that the “forces of tyranny” had been greatly exaggerated
to carry out a global-militaristic strategy. Nevertheless, he consistently chose
to bolster the powers of the executive rather than defend the basic rights of
Rehnquist fancied himself a “strict constructionist,” a judge who
simply applied the Constitution according to its literal meaning. As it turns
out, he was entirely unwilling to defend any part of the Bill of Rights (excluding
the revered 2nd Amendment) and significantly eroded the institution he was supposed
Forget the state ceremonies for the deceased Chief Justice. Just put a crease
in the soil at Potter’s field and kick a few leaves over the hardening
If it was up to me, Rehnquist would never be buried on American soil.
The man betrayed his country and his name should be struck from the history
He did nothing to shore up civil liberties or to preserve the constitution.
His tenure at the high court merely paved the way for the Imperial Presidency
and the further savaging of the rule of law.
Let Bush and his ilk sing Rehnquist’s praises. What difference
does it make? The man was a miserable American and a dead loss as a Chief Justice.