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Reviewing the Rehnquist Hatchet Job

In the Saturday WSJ, Richard Garnett of Notre Dame Law School reviews John Jenkins' hatchet-job biography of the late Chief Justice Rehnquist.  The paragraph most pertinent to the topic of this blog is:

The author's discussion of Rehnquist's death-penalty jurisprudence is typical. Mr. Jenkins takes for granted the correctness of the court's sweeping decision in a 1972 case to hold the death penalty unconstitutional. Although he is willing to concede that "there was more to Rehnquist's philosophy than mere blood lust," Mr. Jenkins dismisses Rehnquist's principled dissent from that decision, and his subsequent vote with the majority in 1976 to reinstate the death penalty, as "his excuse to add giddy-up to the system."
The book is titled The Partisan, but the title may be a more accurate description of the author than the subject.  "It is a tediously partisan, relentlessly tendentious and superficial expansion of a similarly flawed New York Times Magazine profile published more than 25 years ago."

Jenkins' use of the term "blood lust" is sufficient to demonstrate that his perspective is fatally tainted by his views, so as to make the book not worth reading.  It is quite possible to write a biography of someone the author strongly disagrees with and remain objective, but this term indicates either an inability or an unwillingness to understand the other side's viewpoint.  I'll save my $28.99 (plus heavy California sales tax) and pass on this book.

[The above block quote is from the on-line version.  The print version has an error in the date of Gregg v. Georgia.]

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