Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court died yesterday evening. The Times obituary is here. A few misc. thoughts:
(1) He deserves credit for defending the independence of the judiciary in the face of attacks and smears largely orchestrated by his own political party.
(2) He was out-flanked on the right on most issues by Antonin Scalia and, of course, the lunatic Clarence Thomas. This is quite remarkable when one remembers how far to the right he was, though, to some extent, long service on the Court tempered some of his right-wing radicalism. But several candidates whose names are mentioned would certainly be to the late Chief Justice's right on a host of issues, for example, Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit and Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit.
(3) He always struck me as a political, not legal, conservative: he had a set of conservative political views which he wrote into the law when he could, with opinions that are not generally notable for the quality of their reasoning and argument, but for how result-oriented they are.
(4) Bush & co., still reeling from their man-made humanitarian disaster on the Gulf Coast, may not have the political capital and clout to force through the ideological zealot the theocrats and crypto-fascists at the base of the party would like. This may be an unintended good consequence of the recent horrors.
ANOTHER: A harsh, but not unfair, assessment here.