Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday evening at his home in suburban Virginia, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.
I'm not a person who says nice things about people I disliked just because they're dead. At most, I'll hold my silence out of respect for the living. Obviously, Rehnquist was not my favorite member of the court. I disagreed with most of his decisions. But I respected him for one very important thing. At a time when the conservative dogma requires hatred of the very concept of the supreme court, William H. Rehnquist defended the independence of the judiciary. That will be a powerful loss.
So, what now? Bush gets to name another member of the court. In one respect, this won't matter much. Rehnquist was in the conservative third of the court. Bush will name a conservative. This won't change the balance of power nearly as much as replacing O'Connor, who was in the swing third. On the other hand, Rehnquist was the chief justice and Bush gets to name or promote someone to that position. No doubt, Bush and his cronies will show the proper level of respect for the dead by high-fiving each other and shouting, "Yee-haw, a twofer!" The chief justice decides which cases the court will or will not hear. In getting to name the next chief, Bush gets to screw us for years after he has retires to Crawford.