Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the US Supreme Court did not want to leave... but he had to anyway.
For many months there was speculation that Rehnquist would announce his resignation. This Brutally Honest commentator had earlier speculated that most of the rumors of his departure were engineered by one Karl Rove as a way to gently nudge the old man out so the Bush Imperium could bring their own people in.
But then Rehnquist stayed and Justice O'Connor announced her departure.
Now Rehnquist left in the only way a man determined to stay could leave... by dying.
There's a lot that can be said about Rehnquist, both as a SCOTUS justice and as Chief Justice. There were a lot of things that happened both good and bad under his watch. Rehnquist has the distinction of being the SECOND Chief Justice in American history to preside over an impeachment hearing.
As I pointed out on several occasions, this man, who was supposedly a "strict constitutionalist" presided over a court that made SEVERAL serious constitutional ERRORS. But there are a couple of things that need to be said...
First, while the high court made several key advancements for liberty under his watch, Rehnquist was often defaulting on the side of government. Instead of applying concepts of freedom to the US Constitution, Rehnquist believed in the absolute justification of government, be it large or small. The government passed a law, Rehnquist supported it by default.
Under Rehnquist's watch, liberty was suppressed in favor of GOVERNMENT.
But the other thing that should be noted is this... Rehnquist also had the courage to go before Congress and WARN them not to make every social misstep a federal offense. I mean, it's one thing to complain about these things... we all do it. But to get before the Congress of the United States and actually CALL them on their dictatorial trends! That takes courage.
Of course Congress NEVER listened to his warnings... probably because he never followed through with getting the court to toss out those federalized laws. Then again, that would have gone against his own nature.
So now where are we? We're about to have the Supreme Court being run by the very man who used to WORK for Rehnquist as a clerk. Believe me whenI say that I am SERIOUSLY concerned about this situation. Rehnquist was billed as a "strict constitutionalist", and he turned out to be more along the lines of "strict government".
What will John Roberts be like as Chief Justice? And who will the Imperium put up to replace O'Connor now? I guess we'll just have to find out.
My only hope... is that Sandra Day O'Connor does something completely unexpected and decide to stay on the job until 2009. It's not likely, but it certainly would be the one thing that would keep this country from becoming TOO damned conservative.