News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Supreme Court's journey never ends

President Eisenhower once said that naming Earl Warren to the U.S Supreme Court was the worst fool thing he ever did.

That was more than a half century ago and conservatives have tried every since to undo what Ike called a colossal mistake.

Death ended Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's 33-year journey down that same philosophical road last week. He gets a better epithet. He stayed the course.

His death and distinguished career are not getting the attention they deserve because of the aftermath of Katrina. Had not that terrible hurricane roared ashore, the nation's attention would be focused on his death, how he helped nudge the court to the right, the ramifications of John Roberts to succeed him, and the second nomination President Bush will make to the nation's top court.

The federal judiciary moves slowly, a quasi political/ legal iceberg continuously adrift in U.S. society that eventually leaves its marks.

Justice Rehnquist was a Richard Nixon appointee to the court, and was President Reagan's selection to be chief justice. He was a Barry Goldwater protegee in the 1960s.

He was the fourth longest serving chief justice. But the Rehnquist legacy, ironically, isn't enough for conservatives. They see two major issues that need to be resolved in their favor. Religion's role in government and abortion continue to dominate their judicial philosophy.

Justice Renhquist probably will be remembered among other things for presiding at President Clinton's impeachment trial and for voting along political party lines to give the disputed 2000 presidential election to President Bush.

Unlike some others who preceded him on the court, Chief Justice Rehnquist stayed pretty close to his calling.

But, in all of those years, he was never able to remake the court, an institution that usually keeps the nation drifting along somewhere near the mainstream regardless of who is at the helm.

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