“I had the privilege of interviewing Chief Justice Rehnquist three times,” James Rosen told FNC viewers today: “Once by exchange of letters…Once with just a tape recorder in his chambers, and the last time, eight years later, with Fox News cameras in tow.
That last occasion, in May 2001, marked the first time news cameras are known to have been permitted inside the chambers of any justice…and the chief graciously showed us around, telling tales about his experiences on the court dating back to 1952, when he served as a clerk for Justice Robert Jackson. The chief was a tall man with a low baritone. He smoked cigarettes and possessed a lively, but by all accounts never malicious, wit.
Only forty-seven when named to the bench by Richard Nixon in 1971, the chief in his interview with me four years ago appeared to approach the subject of his advancing age with a sense of resignation.”
The rest of the transcript is after the jump…
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Rehnquist: Justice Charles Whittaker, who was appointed by President Eisenhower, found the work just either too difficult psychologically perhaps and was in Bethesda and finally took retirement. And Harlan Stone, who was the chief justice from 1941 to 1946, had a fatal seizure while he was reading an opinion from the bench. I think he died that evening.
James Rosen: Does that sort of give you the jitters every time you get on the bench to read an opinion?
William Rehnquist: No. No, I figure when your time has come, your time has come, and whether it’s on the bench or off the bench.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
The chief and I talked about the history and workings of the Supreme Court. He wouldn’t comment on cases in which he was involved. When I asked what television programs he watched, he paused and finally blurted out, “The Weather Channel.”
That’s because he manned weather stations in Africa in World War II, and to the day he died, he retained in his head the altitudes of major cities across the world.