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5.0 out of 5 stars Rehnquist's Boswell, April 7, 2011
This review is from: Rehnquist: A Personal Portrait of the Distinguished Chief Justice of the United States (Hardcover)
This is the biography of a friendship. It is charming, honest and informative. Although it is about the man, not the Chief Justice, it will be an essential reference to any future biographer, since it reveals the man the way a more general biography would not.

One is amused by such things as the Chief Justice's taste in low brow movies (nothing too bad, just standard Hollywood junk). When Laurence Tribe was leading the smear campaign against Robert Bork, Democratic operatives broke into Bork's local video store to see what sort of movies he watched. Embarassingly for them, Bork's tastes ran to opera and highbrow cinema, but I wonder what would have happened if they broke into Rehnquist's video store instead?

Mr. Obermeier also points out that the Chief Justice was extraordinarily prescient about the books he wrote. He wrote about impeachment before he had to preside over a rare impeachment trial, about the conflict between liberty and wartime necessity before 9/11. Talk about being ahead of the curve!

The book generally stays out of politics, so much so that a good deal of the book could apply to a Justice on the left, but occasionally, the author mentions one of the major events the Chief Justice was professionally involved in and here the author excels. Interestingly, the Chief Justice believed, for instance, that there were times when it was right to impeach and also right to acquit after impeachment.

This is quite true. Mr. Obermeier doesn't discuss this, but although there was a delicious irony in the fact that President Clinton himself signed the law which gave courts the power to investigate all aspects of a person's sexlife, the impeachment was really as much about Monica Lewinsky as Al Capone's trial was about tax evasion. The real target was President Clinton's sale of military secrets to China for personal gain. Thereafter, the President was a blackmail victim of the PRC. One of the reasons why our relations with India were so strained by 2000 is that the Chinese government made Clinton side with them on everything from trade to nuclear testing. This couldn't very well be the stated subject of the impeachment, but the impeachment had the same effect. After 1999, China could no longer make President Clinton their puppet.

But this gets us well beyond the scope of the book, which tries, very successfully, to capture the essence of an important government official. In the process, it reveals the character of the author himself, who reveals himself to be kind but honest, brilliant but modest, an ideal friend. It says a lot about Chief Justice Rehnquist that he could attract a friend like Mr. Obermeier.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 25, 2011 3:05:07 PM PDT
Leo says:
"Democratic operatives broke in...!!??" Poppycock. Humorous review...very funny.
http://www.theamericanporch.com/bork4.htm

One think I don't feel like chasing down but could you direct me please to the legislation that Clinton signed that gave courts the power to investigate all aspects of a person's sexlife so I can go see who sponsored it and how the vote went? This is great!

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2011 3:47:19 PM PDT
T. Berner says:
Sure. It was the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, signed into law by President Clinton on September 13, 1994. It amended Rules 413, 414 and 415 of the Federal Rules of Evidence to make your entire sex life more freely admissible if you are charged with sexual harrassment (Paula Jones alleged that he touched her knee, which made his harrassment an "assault" which activated the rule). I'll leave you to do your own political analysis of the passage into law.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2011 6:28:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 5, 2011 6:39:57 PM PDT
Leo says:
T. Berner. The Act was one of the few extensive and visionary "bipartisian" acts of any Congress and any President on my short list of such legislation during my lifetime. It did in fact amend Federal Rules of Evidence 413, 414, 415 but hardly in the "ironic" fashion you describe: "...to make your entire sex life more freely admissible if you are charged with sexual harrassment (Paula Jones alleged that he touched her knee, which made his harrassment an 'assault' which activated the rule)." It did nothing of the sort and in fact simply merely codified existing State and Federal trial court evidentiary practices developed over decades.

The VCCLEA simplified an existing hodge-podge of complicated judicially created rules for entering "prior transactions" in the area of "sex crimes" into evidence in criminal and civil trials.

In fact, this is one of the few instances where the "laboratory effect" of state's creating their own evidenciary rules created jurisprudence ahead of federal ones. A more recent example, if allowed to germinate and grow through further trial and error may one day be the health care system put into place in Massachussetts with the support and approval of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

The Federal Rules incorporated many state rules and today, most if not all states now legislatively "incorporated" the Federal Rules in their state courts. In fact, my own state of Georgia's appellate courts pioneered the "similiar transactions" rule in the Atlanta child murder prosecution of Wayne Williams and more recently the prosecution of "Black Widow" Lynn Turner. The "similiar transactions" rule includes most every category of crime today, not just sex crimes.

Another glaring comment is your mean and distorted observation regarding Bill Clinton and China. It is so far from having even a grain of truth in it that I am astounded how reckless and casually self-destructive you are willing to be with wild inaccurate statements in your "reviews" - not just this one but others which I have read.

You would be better off sticking to the subject matter at hand. If you had, perhaps this thread would have been about Rehnquist the man and not you and your opinions.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c103:H.R.3355.ENR:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c103:1:./temp/~c103wcV77C:e1051434:

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2011 8:07:29 PM PDT
T. Berner says:
Hey, I have no objections to the law, so I won't bother to correct your rather one sided account of the law. The fact remains that if he hadn't signed the law, Bill Clinton would not have had to commit perjury. The law came about because one of the Kennedys as you recall, had managed to avoid evidence that he had committed prior acts of rape when he was charged with rape. That got him acquited, a gross miscarriage of justice. So I am all for the law; I was merely pointing out the irony of Clinton's support for the law (he was quite reluctant to support it, by the way, according to press accounts).

As for Clinton and China, go back and read The New York Times series that won it a Pulitzer Prize. One of the peculiar things about you folks on the Left is that you have a fascinating intellectual flaw that allows you to rewrite history as if you work for the Ministry of Truth right next to Winston Smith. Your inability to handle the truth makes dialogue impossible.
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