I wrote here that I thought it would be in the Democrats' interest for President Bush to name a new Chief Justice this summer. But for all that, I was tremendously pleased to read Rehnquist's statement that he wishes to “put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors” of his imminent retirement, and that he will perform his duties on the Court “as long as [his] health permits.”
Cool. Why? Mostly because I've a lot of experience (rather too much) with my loved ones struggling with cancer, and one thing I know is that you have to fight. On a personal level, I'm rooting for him, and I'm buoyed up by his choice that he's not going to give in easily. You need to struggle and be stubborn and ornery and strong and brave, and that's what he's been doing — with matter-of-factness and good humor, no less — and good for him.
A story I like to tell: My dad, Norman Weinberg, served with Rehnquist in 1943 in an Army Air Force Technical Training Detachment at Denison University in Ohio. (That, and subsequent postings, kept the two privates safely out of combat.) I've got a class book from that year, which describes “Hubbs Rehnquist, that great liberal and crusader for the Wisconsin dairy farmer,” as “[l]azily stretched out on his bed with his patented eye-ear-nose sleeping bag over his head.” (I have no idea whether the first part of this description was ironic or straightforward.)
More than forty years after all that, I met then-Justice Rehnquist for the first time. I introduced myself as Jon Weinberg, and mentioned to him that he had served with my father at Denison. His reaction: “Not Norman Weinberg?”
I've had a fondness for him ever since.