The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist

Reply Mon 8 Oct, 2012 09:53 am
My opinions of Rehnquist are not kind. He was a racist and barely changed himself before he became chief justice of the Supreme Court. BBB

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

Book Description
Publication Date: October 2, 2012

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.

Editorial Reviews

John W. Dean, author of The Rehnquist Choice and Nixon White House Counsel

“‘Partisan’ is the perfect title to describe the conservative ideologue who became the 16th Chief Justice of the United States. And John Jenkins proves himself a perfect biographer in writing the first full non-legalistic look at this reclusive and enigmatic personality who pushed the nation's High Court to the political right. This is an important, engaging and informative read.”

Charles Lewis, Executive Editor, Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University

“THE PARTISAN is a terrific, timely and important book, meticulously researched and enthralling to read. How exactly did a segregationist and mere Assistant Attorney General become a Supreme Court Justice, let alone Chief Justice? John Jenkins' investigative biography is an inspired and authoritative work and a great public service.”


“A much-awarded legal journalist serves up an investigative biography of the controversial, late chief justice.”
Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog

“Though it may not be cheered by Rehnquist fans, ‘The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist’ (PublicAffairs) is no quick hit job. Mr. Jenkins and his research assistants pored through Rehnquist archives and the papers of other justices to illuminate some little-known corners of Chief Justice Rehnquist’s life.”

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.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

October 3, 2012 By Dario

This is a perfect read for educating yourself about the power the Supreme Court has in creating our policies. Rarely, do we see the behind the scenes events which made history. I was surprised by how educated and cerebral Rehnquist was but at the same time having such blind spots on issues concerning civil rights, women's rights in particular. I am reminded of the scarey thoughts around civil rights that are in the air today. If partisanism can lead to inhumanity, excessive cronyism, and anachronistic judgement, why do Americans stand for it? This book raised important moral and political question for me without being dogmatic.

October 7, 2012

"Partisan" raises the bar for good research and its interpretation about a subject critical to the understanding of the role of the Supreme Court and its members to our country's governance in contemporary society today. The author, John Jenkins, is an accomplished legal reporter and author who brings that background, experience and relationships into play as he draws on contemporary sources to explain the personality of a major player, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, in the juxtaposition of the Executive and Legislative Branches within our constitutional framework. Understanding the why and how is what "Partisan" is all about. A "must read" designed to make the reader think and for all thoughtful students of contemporary affairs. I commend it to all.
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