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The Partisan: The Life of William Rehnquist Hardcover – October 2, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586488872
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586488871
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #641,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A. Jenkins, editor of CQ Press and a veteran legal journalist, traces the life of William Rehnquist (1924‚--ì2005), who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 by President Nixon and became chief justice in 1986. As Jenkins underscores, Rehnquist's years as chief justice were characterized by a markedly conservative shift in Supreme Court jurisprudence. Jenkins takes the view that Rehnquist was an ideologue rather than a legal scholar and theorist, it his "expedient and unyielding conservatism" most apparent in his view that federalism, the balance between the states and the federal government, had "revolutionary potential" ‚--ìsa potential the authorhe says, has been realized in chief justice Roberts's court. And while Jenkins is an informed and balanced commentator on the politics surrounding presidential appointments to the Court, Rehnquist's legal legacy, and relationships among the justices, he is equally interested in Rehnquist the man‚--îhis character, his predilections, his demons. Jenkins offers a mixed but often unflattering view of Rehnquist. There are also revelations for those who have not been Court cognoscenti, foremost among them Rehnquist's long battle with an addiction to prescription pain-killers. In an accessible and satisfying biography, Jenkins finds the right balance between the law and the man, the legal and the human. Agemt: Jane Dystel, Dystel and Goderich Literary Management.

From Booklist

In 1985, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist sat for an in-depth interview with Jenkins for a profile in the New York Times Magazine. Famous for his distrust of the press, it was Rehnquist’s last such interview. On his death, in 2005, Rehnquist left no memoir and until now there’s been no biography. Drawing on journals Rehnquist kept and records at the Rehnquist Library at Stanford University, Jenkins offers the first full look at the career of the justice, who advanced conservative ideals above individual rights from the time he came on the court, in 1972, until his death. His legacy continues through his successor and former clerk, John Roberts. Jenkins details Rehnquist’s libertarianism, involvement with Goldwater Republicans, and path to having President Nixon appoint him to the Supreme Court with the expectation that Rehnquist would steer the court rightward. Jenkins illuminates both the human side of Rehnquist, his parsimony and addiction to prescription painkillers, and his judicial philosophy, which generated little in the way of law but which supported a strong conservative court agenda for 33 years. --Vanessa Bush

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Customer Reviews

And it has some interesting surprises as well.
Ronald H. Clark
And if you want to know one of the reasons the current Supreme Court is the way it is, this book will tell you that, too.
mkdelmar
The Partisan is the best book on the Supreme Court since the Brethren.
Professor Breeze

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We have many solid studies of the Rehnquist Court, but this is the first full-scale biography of the Chief (1924-1995) himself. It can best be described as a "no holds barred" rather critical view, but one that adds importantly to our understanding of this significant Supreme Court figure. And it has some interesting surprises as well.

The book generally follows a chronological approach, tracing Rehnquist's life from his childhood in Wisconsin, to his wartime service as a meteorologist, his undergraduate years at Stanford and his outstanding law school studies. The book really picks up with the author's discussion of Rehnquist's clerkship with Justice Robert Jackson. Thanks to the efforts of Professor John Q. Barrett, Jackson recently has been re-emerging as a significant figure. The clerkship is important for two principal reasons: (1) by this point in time, the author suggests, WHR's conservative orientation was set in stone, which made him uncomfortable with his fellow clerks whom he considered soft on Communism and way too liberal; and (2) it is during the clerkship, that Rehnquist wrote the infamous memo on the Brown desegregation case that would cause him great difficulties during both of his confirmation hearings.

The author paints Rehnquist as a Janus-featured individual: outwardly jolly but inwardly brooding. All I can say is that at my interactions with the Chief at Supreme Court Historical Society meetings, he was as pleasant and happy a person as one could expect. Early on, the author suggests, WHR became dedicated to heavy use of the death penalty and for vigorous criminal enforcement, including limitations on habeas corpus. The author next discusses his years in Phoenix and his alliance with the Goldwater 1964 campaign and work with Richard Kleindienst.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Schmerguls VINE VOICE on August 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This 2012 biography shows Rehnquist as the far right ideologue he was all his life. The author had access to the Nixon tapes and Nixon said he hoped Rehnquist was a "reactionary bastard"--and of course Nixon was not disappointed in that regard.. The book cites lots of cases (and wisely gives the legal citation for every case--thus if one wants to know what the case says one can easily read it in these days when all cases are on the Internet). The author is not I think, a lawyer, but he is very knowledgeable about the work of the Supreme Court. He shows that Rehnquist was not much interested in what the law was but in what he believed the law should be--and decided the cases on that basis.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mkdelmar on February 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to know what William Rehnquist was really like, this book will tell you. And if you want to know one of the reasons the current Supreme Court is the way it is, this book will tell you that, too. The book grew out of a Rehnquist profile that Jenkins wrote for the New York Times Magazine some years ago. He's brought things up to date in a breezy journalistic style that nevertheless remains serious throughout the book. The book is well-sourced, the major court cases are all here, there's plenty of original reporting, including some great stuff about Rehnquists's failed attempts at writing novels. Jenkins is judgemental, but fair. He doesn't let his own opinions get the better of him. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paula Gantz on February 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
John A. Jenkins' meticulously researched biography of William Rehnquist is extremely readable and makes for a historical "thriller" in its coverage of Rehnquist's climb to the top of the U.S. court system. It is replete with tales of Nixon machinations and Reagan maneuverings. But most of all it highlights the callous disregard for individual rights and outright prejudice at the heart of Rehnquist's gestalt. This book is a "must-read" for all interested in the politics of the Supreme Court, but also for all thoughtful and responsible citizens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By panagiotis on December 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed it to be honest, despite some of the politicization of this man's life. For a history buff like me, the prose was not perfect but I learned something and that is all i can ask for. No one is perfect especially a Cold War conservative jurist. But no one can deny his place in history either. Good book, worthwhile library addition for a law history enthusiast.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Abbie M. Storm on December 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
People may forget how much of a partisan departure Rehnquist was as Chief, but any small amount of looking will show that this author, though blunt & obviously not in agreement with his subject's politics, has done a good job of being fair to his subject & at making his historical case. This book should be included in any contemporary list of Supreme Court bio's & should be consumed by anyone interested in contemporary American political history.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jwilliams on March 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This biography is only a bit better than average. It is well written but is clearly partisan in approach.
It is, however, entertaining.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a very conservative person. In general, I don't feel any empathy for liberals and their jurisprudence. Especially in criminal matters. And that Rehnquist is responsible for our tougher criminal justice bent is laudable on his part.

Jenkins does not like Rehnquist. As per his left-wing ideology, he cannot see how anyone could really support him. He tries to blow all the leftist dog whistles to make one dislike this man who gave thirty-plus years of service to our nation on its highest court.

However, conservatives should not pan this book. Regard it as a reverse endorsement. Only a truly effective conservative could get this shrill of a treatment. (Think about Haynes Johnson's "Sleepwalking through History".) So really anytime a big liberal journalist gives this much treatment to try to destroy a conservative's legacy, I see that as positive.

Rehnquist laid the groundwork, Roberts can continue that work and bring the law back to its real place in American life. I would give this account a fair reading and smile every time the left goes after Rehnquist, a man who stuck it through, even the tough times. That is a model for all conservatives. Stick around. Stay firm. Never relent. Don't worry about popular liberal opinion because it always shifts because liberals only care about their own self-aggrandizement.

So in all, I liked the book, especially the chapter on the hanging judge. So for all the conservatives who are avoiding reading it, I would really recommend doing so. You will learn some things, and get to read some firsthand liberal teeth gnashing, which to me is always fun.
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