The Rehnquist Choice

  • by John W. Dean
  • Narrated by Boyd Gaines, John W. Dean
  • 6 hrs and 0 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the fall of 1971, when William Rehnquist was nominated to fill an Associate Justice seat on the Supreme Court, the Senate raised no major objections, and a little-known Assistant Attorney General found himself at the pinnacle of the judiciary. It seemed a straightforward choice of a relatively young, academically outstanding and politically seasoned lawyer who shared Richard Nixon's philosophy of "strict constructionism." As Nixon's White House Counsel, John Dean reveals for the first time that the choice was anything but straightforward. The truth is that Rehnquist's nomination was the result of a dramatic, Nixonian roller coaster. Rehnquist was a last-minute longshot who had once been dismissed by Nixon as a "clown." Only John Dean - Rehnquist's champion at the time - knows the full, improbable story. Dean's gripping tale is loaded with revelations, such as Nixon's plan to pack the court by forcing resignations - before his inauguration. Using newly released White House tapes, and thousands of previously unseen documents, Dean puts listeners directly in the Oval Office with Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichmann, Mitchell, Rehnquist, and the candidates they considered. The Rehnquist Choice fills in a long-missing explanation of the making of the man who wrote the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore and presided over the impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton.

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Customer Reviews

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An Insider's viewpoint

With the release of the Nixon Tapes more books are coming out based on new information revealed in the tapes. This book is one of those books. The book is based on 420 hours of the recently released tapes that cover the 34 days in 1971 when Nixon filled two Supreme Court vacancies. Dean used the Tapes, his own papers from when he was Nixon’s White House Counsel, and documents from the National Archives. I never thought I would be listening to the famous Nixon Tapes.

Apparently Nixon considered 36 candidates to fill the positions vacated by retiring Justices Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan. Dean states that Nixon’s goal was to slow down integration and move the Court to the right. When Rehnquist was being considered Nixon was told “Rehnquist made his Arizona mentor Barry Goldwater look like a liberal.” I cannot believe that Nixon considered nominating Senator Bird to the Court; he was even a Democrat not a Republican besides being a form KKK member.

Dean reveals the “vetting” process used by the Nixon White House and Justice Department to select nominees to the Court. The book is well written and easy to follow with lots of quotes from the tapes to give reader the feeling they are sitting in the White House alongside Nixon. The book is short at six hours. During Nixon’s Presidency he appointed four men to the Supreme Court: William Rehnquist, Lewis Powell Jr., Harry Blackmum and he appointed Warren E. Burger as Chief Justice. Boyd Gaines does a good job narrating the book.
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- Jean

Specialist Interest

This is a title that falls into the above category. I found it fascinating, but it has a very limited audience; probably those interested in law, politics and the Nixon administration, or some combination of these matters. As is usual, Dean has thoroughly researched the topic and has not relied upon his own first hand knowledge. In this regard, the device of having Dean read the passages that are his own reflections is a very useful and appropriate one.
As for the rest of the production, Boyd Gaines was a more than competent reader who captured the characters. If anything, his reading was more consumable than the actual recordings from the Nixon White House, the latter being very difficult to understand. This difficulty only increased my admiration for Dean's diligence in sorting through all of the available tapes for the purpose of The Nixon Defence (see my earlier review).
If you don't fall into the above categories, I think you could safely give this title the miss. If you fall into one or more of them, then I think you'll find this as interesting as I did.
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- Ian C Robertson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-07-2001
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio