The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist

The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist

by John A Jenkins
The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist

The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist

by John A Jenkins


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As a young lawyer practicing in Arizona, far from the political center of the country, William Hubbs Rehnquist's iconoclasm made him a darling of Goldwater Republicans. He was brash and articulate. Although he was unquestionably ambitious and extraordinarily self-confident, his journey to Washington required a mixture of good-old-boy connections and rank good fortune. An outsider and often lone dissenter on his arrival, Rehnquist outlasted the liberal vestiges of the Warren Court and the collegiate conservatism of the Burger Court, until in 1986 he became the most overtly political conservative to sit as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Over that time Rehnquist's thinking pointedly did not--indeed, could not--evolve. Dogma trumped leadership. So, despite his intellectual gifts, Rehnquist left no body of law or opinions that define his tenure as chief justice or even seem likely to endure. Instead, Rehnquist bestowed a different legacy: he made it respectable to be an expedient conservative on the Court.

The Supreme Court now is as deeply divided politically as the executive and legislative branches of our government, and for this Rehnquist must receive the credit or the blame. His successor as chief justice, John Roberts, is his natural heir. Under Roberts, who clerked for Rehnquist, the Court remains unrecognizable as an agent of social balance. Gone are the majorities that expanded the Bill of Rights.

The Rehnquist Court, which lasted almost twenty years, was molded in his image. In thirty-three years on the Supreme Court, from 1972 until his death in 2005 at age 80, Rehnquist was at the center of the Court's dramatic political transformation. He was a partisan, waging a quiet, constant battle to imbue the Court with a deep conservatism favoring government power over individual rights.

The story of how and why Rehnquist rose to power is as compelling as it is improbable. Rehnquist left behind no memoir, and there has never been a substantial biography of him: Rehnquist was an uncooperative subject, and during his lifetime he made an effort to ensure that journalists would have scant material to work with. John A. Jenkins has produced the first full biography of Rehnquist, exploring the roots of his political and judicial convictions and showing how a brilliantly instinctive jurist, who began his career on the Court believing he would only ever be an isolated voice of right-wing objection, created the ethos of the modern Supreme Court.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586488871
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 10/02/2012
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 923,340
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

John A. Jenkins is president and publisher of CQ Press. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, GQ, the Washington Monthly, and the American Lawyer. He is a four-time recipient of the American Bar Association's Gavel Award Certificate of Merit, the highest award in legal journalism.

Table of Contents

Reserchers xi

Introduction xiii

1 Shorewood 1

2 A Change of Name and Place 7

3 "Hate Black" 13

4 Basic Moral Rights 19

5 On to Washington 27

6 An "Unhumanitarian Position," and Other Memos 33

7 "Like a Bunch of Old Women" 45

8 Hanging Judge 49

9 Rugged Libertarianism 59

10 "What the Court Really Needs Is a Chief Justice" 65

11 Cowboys in Washington 75

12 Changes on the Court 89

13 Southern Strategy 95

14 Two More Vacancies 103

15 "You Might Consider Bill Rehnquist" 111

16 "What Now, Hon. W. H. Rehnquist?" 131

17 Roe v. Wade 137

18 "The Better Point of View" 149

19 Lone Dissenter 163

20 Bored at the Court 169

21 An Aspiring Novelist 177

22 Code Pink 189

23 A Betting Man 197

24 "Bizarre Ideas and Outrageous Thoughts" 203

25 Bicentennial Bombshell 209

26 A Score to Settle 215

27 High Expectations 223

28 The Brennan Court 229

29 Federalism, Occasionally 237

30 A Fragile Majority 245

31 Solendor of Stripes 253

32 Clinton's Trial 257

33 "Never Let the War End Until You've Won It" 261

Acknowledgments 267

Chronology 271

Notes on Sources 273

Selected Bibliography 315

Index 319

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