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WH Pool Report: Saving Private Rehnquist, Again

In this White House pool report, notes on Sandra Day O'Connor's eulogy for Chief Justice Rehnquist:


"He never twisted arms to get a vote on a case. He relied on the power of his arguments,’’ she said. O’Connor, who grew up on a ranch, said he ran the court like an accomplished rider handles a horse.

"The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then they guide the horse with loose reins and very seldom use the spurs. So it was with our chief. He guided us with loose reins and used the spurs only rarely to get us up to speed with our work," she said.

We don't mind a little whip now and again ourselves, but, hey, we knew there was a reason we liked the guy. Also, we hope to we have enough spark to sass doctors from our deathbed, too:

"And he never lost his sense of humor. As he was being examined in the emergency room of a local hospital in the final week of his life, the examining physician asked who was his primary care doctor. `My dentist,’ he struggled to say, with a twinkle in his eye."
Full report after the jump.

From: Press.Releases@WhiteHouse.Gov

Subject: POOL REPORT #1, 9/7/05

Date: September 7, 2005 5:12:57 PM EDT

Reply-To: Press.Releases@WhiteHouse.Gov

 

Pool Report #1, 9/7/05

Rehnquist Funeral

 

We should be getting a transcript of the president’s remarks, so I’ll start with O’Connor and file a separate report on other speakers. The funeral service at St. Matthews lasted just slightly over two hours. The program called for ``A Service of Celebration And Commitment to God,’’ and that’s what it was. The speakers offered a vivid portrait of Rehnquist as a person, focusing on his devotion to family, his faith and his spirit of optimism. It was a very personal service, with little focus on his role as a public official.

The president, the first lady, the vice president and Mrs. Cheney were all seated when the funeral procession began. The Supreme Court justices came in first, walking single file through the massive front doors of the cathedral. Members of the clergy followed, then the pallbearers carrying the casket. (They were previous court clerks. No id on them, but Roberts was not among them). The pool sat in the very back row, so we could not see the president. Tape recorders were prohibited.

 

O’Connor and Bush were the only non-family members who offered remembrances.

O’Connor remained composed and spoke in a strong voice. She recalled her friendship with Rehnquist, dating back to their days as undergraduate students at Stanford University. They went to Stanford law school together and later ended up in Phoenix, where they continued their friendship.

``We are here to celebrate the life of a great chief justice and to thank God for blessing this country with his presence for 80 years,’’ she said. They met at Stanford in 1946 when she was a freshman and Rehnquist worked as bus boy in her dorm.

``He amazed all the young women by carrying such heavy loads of dishes on his tray. I guess that is how he learned to carry all those heavy loads in all the years that followed,’’ she said. During their law schools days, they would play bridge or charades, or go to movies together. ``He was clearly the brightest student in our class…Little did either of us expect to serve on the United States Supreme Court one day.’’

She praised his leadership as chief justice.

``He never twisted arms to get a vote on a case. He relied on the power of his arguments,’’ she said. O’Connor, who grew up on a ranch, said he ran the court like an accomplished rider handles a horse.

``The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then they guide the horse with loose reins and very seldom use the spurs. So it was with our chief. He guided us with loose reins and used the spurs only rarely to get us up to speed with our work,’’ she said.

``He was courageous to the end of his life, just as he was throughout his life. And he never lost his sense of humor. As he was being examined in the emergency room of a local hospital in the final week of his life, the examining physician asked who was his primary care doctor. `My dentist,’ he struggled to say, with a twinkle in his eye.’’

She said Rehnquist also liked to wager _ on sporting events, on elections ``even on the amount of snow that would fall in the courtyard at the court.’’

``He usually won,’’ she added. ``I think the chief bet he could live out another term despite his illness. He lost that bet, as did all of us. But he won all the prizes for a life well lived…Now, as the chief would say, `Counsel, the red light is on. Your time is up.’’’

 

More to come shortly.

 

Ron Hutcheson

Knight Ridder

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