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Rehnquist Nomination

August 05, 1986

Richard Goodwin's article (Editorial Pages, July 28), "Rehnquist Endangers Our Oldest Liberties," attacking President Reagan's nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist to be chief justice, betrays an elitist contempt for democratic processes.

Goodwin opposes Rehnquist because in Goodwin's view Rehnquist is not sufficiently sympathetic to the rights of individuals and because he is unwilling to override legislative choices by interpreting the Constitution to create new "rights."

One wonders why, if Rehnquist is truly a revolutionary proponent of a misleading and "scurrilous" brand of constitutional jurisprudence, Rehnquist's confirmation is supported by the American Bar Assn., which gave him its highest rating, and persons such as former Atty. Gen. Griffin Bell, who served under Jimmy Carter, and liberal California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk in an article in The Times (Editorial Pages, July 30).

Goodwin's suggestion that unelected judges are better equipped than are democratically accountable legislators (or the people themselves) to decide whether "the Constitution must be adapted to the new circumstances" of our ever-changing world is inconsistent with the notions of popular sovereignty and self-government, which are, after all, why our forefathers fought the American Revolution.

The framers of the Constitution anticipated that the world would change, and that the Constitution would require adaptation periodically. Article V of the Constitution expressly authorizes the amendment of our charter of liberties upon a showing of support by three-fourths of the states rather than by, as Goodwin apparently prefers, the vote of a five-person majority of the Supreme Court.


San Diego

Congratulations to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for trying to make the Rehnquist appointment process real through his remarks at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing (Editorial Pages, July 30).

Almost universally, news items referring to the Rehnquist appointment have each arrived at the same bottom line: His confirmation is a foregone conclusion. The Stanley Mosk article is a perfect example of not taking the process seriously; one must deal with the whole truth, think it through and make decisions accordingly, not just "rubber-stamp the President's choice."

Given the feeling that this appointment process is an empty political exercise raises disturbing questions about the reality of many of our political processes. For example, does it matter that we evaluate the qualifications of Justice Rehnquist if our intention is to appoint him anyway? Does it matter that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev negotiate arms control when our intention is to continue to build weapons? Does it matter that we debate the viability of the Strategic Defense Initiative both nationally and internationally if our intention is to build it no matter what?

Considering the long-term consequences of decisions such as the Senate's appointment of our chief justice, arms control and SDI, the danger that major parts of our system are acquiring a momentum of their own without questioning and dialogue or real significance leads to a terribly frightening view of our nation's and the world's future.

It is our hope that the efforts of Kennedy's dialogue regarding the Rehnquist appointment will be honored, in order to breathe life back into this important Senate responsibility and our political process.





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