Rehnquist ends speculation,lessening potential for chaos
"I want to put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors of my imminent retirement. I am not about to announce my retirement. I will continue to perform my duties as chief justice as long as my health permits."
With that terse statement to the Associated Press late last week, William Rehnquist, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, put to rest speculation of his imminent departure because of ongoing health problems. We're hoping the statement also puts to rest fears that a dual nomination process over the summer would send Congress and the nation into a contentious, chaotic frenzy.
A single nomination may serve to minimize -- but certainly not eliminate -- the testy partisan posturing among special-interest groups that has come to typify contemporary judicial nomination processes.
Let's not make a deal
"I think this [Rehnquist's announcement] clarifies the debate and makes it harder for nonconservatives to argue for packaged deals or unprincipled trade-offs" on high court nominees, said Sean Rushton of the Committee for Justice, a group created to promote Bush's conservative judicial nominees.
We hope the single vacancy helps to encourage all groups to avoid such seedy "let's-make-a-deal" jockeying.
To its credit, the White House has been consulting with a diverse group of senators and others on nominees in an effort to avoid bitter partisan and ideological battles. Let's hope these have been good-faith negotiations and not exercises in smoke and mirrors designed to give only the appearance of inclusion.
In his national weekly radio address over the weekend, Bush said his nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will be a "fair-minded individual who represents the mainstream of American law and American values" and one who "will meet the highest standards of intellect, character and ability."
Thus, he hinted that his eventual recommendation to the Senate would be someone who is not aligned with ideologues on either extreme of the political spectrum.
As we argued when Justice O'Connor first announced her resignation earlier this month, it is incumbent upon President Bush to act as a unifier for the nation and to redefine himself as a leader of all Americans.
That goal will best be achieved by his selection of a nominee who mirrors the judicial and intellectual independence of O'Connor.