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The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the Supreme Court Hardcover – September 26, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (September 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743226070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743226073
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

One of the central figures of President Nixon's Watergate scandal sets out to describe how William Hubbs Rehnquist, at the time an obscure Justice Department attorney, came to be appointed to the Supreme Court, later to become Chief Justice. White House counsel Dean takes regretful credit for having suggested Rehnquist because the latter was a strict constructionist (and very conservative), exceedingly talented, a writer of great lucidity, and blessed with a distinguished background that included being first in his class at Stanford Law School and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. Dean was there, of course, and also has access to verbatim transcripts of the time. And so we hear Nixon and company's banal and repetitive discussions interweaving political considerations-regional balance, gender, and race concerns, for example-with rants about political philosophy and enemies. This is the sort of audiobook that does not benefit from histrionics, and reader Michael Rafkin does a good job, though this reviewer regretted his attempts at Nixon impersonation. Still, the book has been widely praised, and this audio version belongs in collections of modern political history.
Don Wismer, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Robert D. NovakNational ReviewThe inside look at chaos in deciding who should fill Supreme Court vacancies is a delight....Dean has performed a valuable service in recording Nixon's tortuous course to a decision.

David GreenbergThe Washington MonthlyThe most detailed behind-the-scenes account ever written of a high courtnomination...impressive for many reasons: its lucid prose, its subtle humor,its relentlessly logical argumentation...a terrific page-turner.

Garrett EppsThe Washington PostWatergate buffs will find [The Rehnquist Choice] jolly nostalgic fun. --This text refers to the Unbound edition.

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By James E. Carroll on June 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
John Dean has written an insider's book that chronicles President Richard Nixon's appointment of William Rehnquist to the United States Supreme Court. It was without doubt a Presidency filled with history, and the appointment of William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court is an often forgotten part of that Presidency. The book is well researched and throughly documented with first hand material from the National Archives, including several verbatim passages transcribed from the infamous White House tapes that otherwise doomed the Nixon Presidency.
Dean brings us inside the "vetting" process used by the White House staff and Justice Department to select nominees to the Court. Dean floated the name of Rehnquist to several in the administration, including then Attorney General John Mitchell, as a possible conservative candidate for the Court as Dean had worked with Rehnquist in the Justice Department and learned of the Rehnquist's strict constructionist interpretation of the constitution. What was fascinating was that Rehnquist while toiling away at the Justice Department was tasked with "vetting' the other possible Court nominees chosen by the White House. Sounds much like the recent scenario of the selection of Dick Cheney as Vice President.
The book details the other nominees Rehnquist beat out for the coveted position. If anyone believes that politics plays no part in the selection of the members of the Court, then this is required reading. At times humorous and at times self-serving, this book is well worth the purchase. If you are not a Court watcher don't worry, you don't have to be to appreciate this book. Dean is a good writer and the text flows easily. Add "The Rehnquist Choice" to your summer reading list - you will gain an appreciation of the importance of Presidential nominations to the Court.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Allan Heydon on March 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
During his first presidential term, Richard Nixon had the unusual opportunity to appoint four justices to the supreme court. This book tells the inside story of how the nominees were selected, focusing almost entirely on the selection of the latter two: Lewis Powell, a prominent Virginia attorney, and William Rehnquist, then the Assistant Attorney General to John Mitchell. Not counting the book's introduction and afterword, its main story covers just 35 days in the fall of 1971.
The book begins by telling how Nixon virtually created the first two vacancies. Essentially, Nixon encouraged Senate republicans to fillibuster the elevation of Abe Fortas to the Chief Justice position. Once in office, Nixon's men then staged a PR campaign to discredit Fortas, causing him to announce his retirement. Ironically, the legal precedent for investigating Fortas' business dealings was based on a memo written by Rehnquist.
If anyone should be entitled to write this story, it is John Dean. At the time, Dean was Council to the President, and it was he that first brought up Rehnquist's name, mostly as a fanciful suggestion. He recounts his experiences vetting candidates and some of his conversations as reconstructed from notes and memory. Primarily, however, the book is based on Nixon's tape recorded conversations in the oval office. Dean has done a good job editing these transcripts so as to maintain sufficient context without dragging them out too long.
What emerges in these conversations is a series of bungled operations and imprudent decisions. Before Lewis and Rehnquist were finally selected in the final two days before their names were announced, the administration actually selected four other candidates.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kim I. Eisler on October 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Every time I think about John Dean sitting in the National Archives listening to his own voice on the presidential tapes, I think how surreal that must have been for the other researchers at the adjacent study carrels. How odd for a man to be able to hear his own voice, 29 years later, occasionally exclaiming: "I said that?" This is a wonderful look at Nixon with some of the funniest anecdotes you'll every come across. John Dean has a real ear for irony and a smooth writing style that will surprise people who know he is a lawyer but didn't come across his talent in the excellent Blind Ambition. There are a couple of points worth making. One is that even though President Nixon weighed political considerations for every move he mad, he seemed to genuinely relish the opportunity to appoint a qualified person from the top of his class at Stanford. If there is a disconnect in this book, it is that Dean makes Rehnquist out to be a much worse person than he is. The Chief Justice is not a bad man and Dean need not feel so guilty about being the first person to raise his name. Skip the moralizing at the end of the book and concentrate on a true story of how a justice was picked and you will laugh until you cry. Some might say it makes them cry, it shouldn't . Its just politics.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Crack Reviewer on October 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Only in the last couple of years have all the tapes of Nixon's many conversations as President in the White House been released. The tragedy of Richard Nixon is that every time someone wants to think well of him, tapes or something else surfaces that shows his real unpleasant, dark, and unsavory character.
John Dean waited for the release of these tapes and along with his personal recollections during the time period has written a book that deals with the selection of Rehnquist and Lewis Powell as United States Supreme Court Justices. Its not pleasant reading for those naive enough to believe that Presidents seek out the most qualified people for appointments. Rather, the book exposes the process used by President Nixon to select two supreme court justices as frought with politics, bigotry, and regionalism. Nixon's bigotry about Jews, prejudice against easterners, and nasty language make this a book that someone who is very sensitive should not read.
The real shocker here is that before picking Powell who was a superbly qualified justice, Nixon first selected two candidates who could not even win acceptance as "qualified" for the Supreme Court by the American Bar Association Committee on the Federal Judiciary. Nixon stubbornly tried to get these individuals appointed until it became absolutely clear it was hopeless. Only at this point, did a real candidate like Powell get nominated. Nixon further abused the process by sending names to the ABA of other people he knew would never win approval.
Rehnquist had good paper qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court. However, it was known early on he was extremely conservative. He may have lied about statements he allegedly made expressing approval of racial segregation in schools. Dean presents the case for this.
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