Today on the news I heard two news stories, and the little voice in my head that connects things started shouting.
The first was that Bill Clinton was making his first campaign appearance on behalf of Senator Kerry since his heart surgery. Clinton introduced Kerry in Pennsylvania, one of the “swing states.”
The second story was about Supreme Court William Rehnquist being treated for thyroid cancer. The Chief Justice, 80, has been on the bench for over 30 years.
These two unrelated stories suddenly gelled in my mind. There are most likely going to be a couple vacancies on the High Court within the next four years, and the Chief Justice is a leading contender for retirement. And is the notion of “Chief Justice Clinton” appointed by President Kerry a completely untenable notion?
But which one? Kerry could nominate either Clinton. I see pros and cons both ways.
In Bill’s favor, he is currently essentially unemployed and has the time. He is also a former state Attorney General. There is also a historical precedent – President William Howard Taft (1909-1913) served as Chief Justice from 1921 until his death in 1930 (earning his footnote in American history as the only man to have headed up two of the three branches of the federal government).
Against Bill’s getting the nod are two factors that spring to mind. First, the role of the Chief Justice (or, for that matter, Associate Justice) has traditionally been one that’s been out of the spotlight. Justices are not known for public statements and addresses and positions – it’s always seemed unbecoming, and might even be against some rules. Clinton loves the spotlight, the attention, the adoration, and having people hang on his every word. He’s like a flower that needs the sunlight, and would wither away in the dusty chambers of the Supreme Court. Besides, I more easily see him at the United Nations – either as the U.S. Ambassador or (shudder) the first American Secretary General.
There’s also that awkward disbarment on his record