U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist issued a statement today saying he has no plans to retire, and will continue on the bench “as long as my health permits.”
“I want to put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors of my imminent retirement.”
Of course, rumors of his imminent death will be harder to put to rest. The 80-year-old Rehnquist is battling an aggressive form of thyroid cancer, and has suffered several complications from his radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Whether he steps down this year or the next, it seems unlikely the Chief Justice can survive President Bush’s second term. (Hell… I wonder if any of us can survive Bush’s second term.)
Then again, the U.S. Supreme Court has a well-deserved reputation as one of medical science’s most effective life-support systems. Sitting justices seem to live forever, but Rehnquist has seen several of his former colleagues step down, only to die within months. It kind of reminds me of the Old Testament story of the death of David… as long as Rehnquist continues studying the Constitution, the Angel of Death can’t take him.