Nixon's man will head trial

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The Independent Online
THE SUPREME Court is the only institution in Washington where the ideas and choices of presidents live on long after they have passed from the scene, writes Andrew Marshall. There is a particular irony in the history of William Rehnquist, the Court's Chief Justice, who will preside over the Senate trial of Bill Clinton: he was appointed to the court by Richard Nixon, the last man who faced impeachment.

Justice Rehnquist, 74, is a conservative to the core. He was appointed to the Justice Department by newly-elected President Nixon in 1969, and to the Court in 1971 in an effort to shift its balance away from the liberal left. Ronald Reagan made him Chief Justice in 1986, stamping his ideology on the court, which has since moved steadily to the right. It is a mark of how far it has gone that Justice Rehnquist is now seen as occupying the centre.

There is a second irony to his role: Justice Rehnquist is the author of a book about impeachments, Grand Inquests, including the last occasion when a President went for trial in the Senate, in 1868. He probably knows more about the subject than any other person in the city. Most observers expect him to be objective, despite his politics.