Today's Blogs

Shoes To Fill

Bloggers discuss the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, his legacy, and his possible successor. They also analyze Hurricane Katrina’s race and class issues.

Shoes to fill: Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a member of the Supreme Court since 1972, died Saturday. President Bush quickly nominated John Roberts, whom he had previously nominated to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s vacated chair, for chief.

At standout legal group blog Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr praises the longtime justice. “Rehnquist was probably the most underrated Justice of the last few decades,” he writes. Celebrity lawyer and scholar Alan Dershowitz dissents. “My mother always told me that when a person dies, one should not say anything bad about him,” he writes in a bitter obituary at the Huffington Post. “My mother was wrong. … Chief Justice William Rehnquist set back liberty, equality, and human rights perhaps more than any American judge of this generation.” Balkinization’s John M. Balkin, a professor of constitutional law at Yale, reposts a recent assessment of Rehnquist’s legacy. (Underneath Their Robes has a similar roundup.)

Roberts’ nomination to replace Rehnquist, writes DLC Vice President Ed Kilgore at liberal salon TPMCafe,“has a number of consequences, most of them more troubling to the administration and the GOP than to Democrats. … First, since Roberts will be replacing Rehnquist rather than O’Conner, his confirmation, whatever else it means, would have little or no impact on the shape of the Court. … Roberts is no longer a priceless gift to the Cultural Right; he’s just a status quo appointment at best.” Furthermore, Kilgore adds, Democrats have already geared up for a battle and aren’t likely to raise the white flag—meaning confirmation could be difficult for Republicans but without the possible payoff of a significantly altered court.

Some conservatives, however, praise Bush’s decision. At Captain’s Quarter’s, Minnesota conservative Ed Morrissey calls the announcement “a bold but strategically sound move,” which should ensure an easy confirmation. Radio host Hugh Hewitt also approves. “I just have to say … when will people stop underestimating the political skills of President Bush,” writes Jay, an impressed anti-liberal, at Stop the ACLU. “The selection helps Bush avoid more ugly political fights while dealing with the hurricane mess. By nominating Roberts, Bush cuts the number of fights from three down to two.”

Others discuss the newly revacated O’Connor seat. “What will be more important to Bush,” asks law professor Ann Althouse, “appointing someone who will shape the law for decades or using the appointment to affect his current political standing?” At Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki writes that President Bush relies more than most on his own personal assessments of people around him and suggests, then, that the president will nominate a jurist he has personally appointed (Zywicki names Janice Rogers Brown, Edith Brown Clement, and Michael McConnell as likely nominees). UCLA Professor Stephen Bainbridge sets his odds. At Election Law, Rick Hasen puts his money on Rogers Brown.

Read more about William Rehnquist and more about John Roberts.

Katrina, Race, and Sept. 11:In an essay in the New York Times’ Week In ReviewSunday, Jason DeParle writes that Hurricane Katrina exposed fault lines of race and class far more troubling than the indiscriminate devastation wrecked by the flooding. (Slate’s Jack Shafer made a similar observation as the disaster unfolded.)

In a much-publicized post at the American Scene, Privilege author Ross Douthat called Katrina the anti-9/11. “On September 11, there was little looting, no violence, tremendous unity. As I woke up this morning, in New Orleans they were suspending the evacuation because people were shooting at the helicopters,” he writes. “On September 11, there was Rudy Giuliani, covered with ash and projecting authority. With Katrina, we’ve had Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin, projecting grief and confusion and uncertainty - and our President, playing the guitar. On September 11, everyone was equal in death - stockbrokers and secretaries, lawyers and waiters, firemen and soldiers. With Katrina, the lines of race and class seem much, much brighter.”

Some see similarities as much as differences. At Notes From a Different Page, hip-hop enthusiast Ian ponders Hurricane Katrina’s legacy for blacks. “Not to draw direct comparisons but it’s hard not to in terms of the impact this tragedy has had - it has become Black America’s 9/11, only with probably a whole lot more victims. With that in mind, seeing the lacklustre response of the government and, to be honest from my point of view, also the blase ‘lifes goes on’ attitude in much of the rest of country is truly sad and speaks volumes about the true state of race relations in this country and what America really feels about us,” he writes. “Remember how quickly things snapped into place after the 9/11 attacks and compare it to the almost-week long response lag time and ‘Shoot-to-kill’ orders issued to deal with people, the vast majority of whom were just trying to stay alive as best they could, this time around.” Ian points to a Negrophile landing page that collects articles and posts dealing with race and Hurricane Katrina.

Others see political problems, rather than social ones, revealed by the disaster. Berkeley economist Brad DeLong points his finger at local civic disarray. Stalwart libertarian Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit (like conservative contrarian Andrew Sullivan) sees problems higher up the food chain. Trumping them all, Slate’s Mickey Kaus writes that the difficulty lies with the federalist system itself, which disrupts a national chain of command by maintaining the peculiar sovereignty of its component states.

Read more about Hurricane Katrina.