The Rehnquist Choice : The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the Supreme Court
The explosive, never-before-revealed story of how William Rehnquist became a Supreme Court Justice, told by the man responsible for his candidacy.
One of the central figures of President Nixon's Watergate scandal sets out to describe how William Hubbs Rehnquist, at the time an obscure Justice Department attorney, came to be appointed to the Supreme Court, later to become Chief Justice. White House counsel Dean takes regretful credit for having suggested Rehnquist because the latter was a strict constructionist (and very conservative), exceedingly talented, a writer of great lucidity, and blessed with a distinguished background that included being first in his class at Stanford Law School and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. Dean was there, of course, and also has access to verbatim transcripts of the time. And so we hear Nixon and company's banal and repetitive discussions interweaving political considerations-regional balance, gender, and race concerns, for example-with rants about political philosophy and enemies. This is the sort of audiobook that does not benefit from histrionics, and reader Michael Rafkin does a good job, though this reviewer regretted his attempts at Nixon impersonation. Still, the book has been widely praised, and this audio version belongs in collections of modern political history.-Don Wismer, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from The Rehnquist Choice by John W. Dean
INTRODUCTION: THE BACKSTORY
The heart of the story of William Rehnquist's appointment to the Supreme Court begins on September 17, 1971, and ends with an announcement on October 21, 1971. That story begins in the next chapter. First, it is important to understand the backstory.
It is well known that Richard Nixon made extraordinary use and abuse of his presidential powers. It is not widely known that those uses and abuses also related to the Supreme Court. More than any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt, he worked hard to mold the Court to his political liking. That meant not only making conservative appointments; it also meant creating appointments. William Rehnquist, who would be Nixon's most important appointment, was actively involved in the efforts to create vacancies on the Court while serving as an assistant attorney general. It is not an overstatement to say that Rehnquist, working with Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, and others, misused the resources and powers of the Department of Justice, and other executive branch agencies, to literally unpack the Court by removing life-tenured justices they found philosophically or politically unacceptable. It was all part of a strategy that commenced even before Nixon assumed office.
Resignation of Chief Justice Earl Warren
The scheme began during the 1968 presidential campaign. The vacancy on the Supreme Court awaiting Richard Nixon when he became president was not an accident. Nixon had made certain that that vacancy would be his to fill. During the 1968 presidential campaign, by a letter of June 13, 1968, Chief Justice Earl Warren informed President Lyndon Johnson that he wished to resign "not because of reasons of health or on account of any personal or associational problems, but solely because of age." Employing the easy candor that characterized all his decisions, Warren explained it was time "to give way to someone who will have more years ahead of him to cope with the problems which will come before the Court."