Thursday, September 08, 2005

RIP Rehnquist (everyone does know he died, right?)

I was in Las Vegas this past weekend, arriving on Thursday and leaving Monday, which, for those of you travelling there anytime soon, is way too long a time to spend in Las Vegas. When you go to Vegas, time literally stands still. By Sunday, I barely knew what day it was, and I was totally clueless about how bad NO had gotten. Reading the NY Times that morning and seeing the pictures in the paper made me feel pretty bad as I sat by the pool in the sun. Then I went in the pool for a while, and later on dropped a donation at the booth the Red Cross set up at Caesar's. At least, I hope it was the Red Cross. Pete Rose was nearby. Perhaps he set up the booth to fund his gambling habit. Anyway, I didn't even know that Chief Justice Rehnquist had died the previous night until late Sunday. It wasn't that I didn't watch the news, it's that the news simply didn't report he was dead very often. I think around six it was mentioned at the top of the hour on CNN, and then we went back to Anderson Cooper yelling at US Senators.


Why the long intro? Because I consider myself to be pretty well informed, and I didn't find out Rehnquist died until 24 hours after the fact, even while wtahcing the news. Do you think the average American noticed?

By the time I got back to DC monday night, John Roberts, the shoo-in candidate for O'Connor's seat, was the President's choice for the new chief, and while the Media and the country focused on New Orleans, Rehnquist was mourned by relatively few on TV, and savaged by others, including the infuriating Alan Dershowitz, who wasted no time trashing him as a racist and an all around bad guy on TV and at the HuffPost, which I refuse to link to because as awful as the total response to Katrina was by the Feds, and it was bad, the barely-contained glee amongst Arianna and friends that this is hurting Dubya is too sickening for me to read. Anyway, no one really has talked much about Rehnquist, unless it's to bash him a bit. The NY Times wrote a nasty editorial about how he was a dinosaur, and even the usually pretty fair Washington Post couldn't help but get some digs in regarding Bush v Gore. So let me praise Rehnquist a bit here.

Rehnquist was a man who loved the law. He was wary of too much federal power, and too much judicial power, and those beliefs made their way into his opinions. Most recently, he voted against the hideous Kelo decision, and joined Thomas and O'Connor in dissenting from Reich. These votes, on eminent domain and the wildly abused Interstate Commerce clause, sum up his career rather well. It's easy to see why President Reagan elevated him to Chief in 1986. He and Reagan both saw a large government as a problem, not a solution. Though Ted Kennedy, EJ Dionne, and MoveOn.org all seem to think a larger government at the federal level would have helped prevent the tragedy of Katrina, I think that if more people viewed government bureuacracy in the same way that Justice Rehnquist did, perhaps things would have been not so terrible for the citizens of New Orleans. But that is for another discussion. An author and historian of the court and a sharp legal mind, William Rehnquist will be missed by those who wished government would not grow so fast and intrude so much. RIP.

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