There was no actual evidence that U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, would announce his retirement on Monday, but the mere possibility has “an entire industry of activist groups” “waiting to lurch into action,” says the Los Angeles Times. Sean Rushton of the Committee for Justice, a conservative group organizing support for President Bush’s judicial nominees, wore a necktie to work Monday so he’d look nice for television interviews that never happened. A Democratic staff member for the Senate Judiciary Committee moved up her wedding plans from August to April so that she’d be married should the chief justice, ailing with cancer, make any summer announcements.
People for the American Way had staff at work all last weekend, making sure the research it had compiled on potential nominees was ready. The group not disappointed when Rehnquist made no announcement: Liberals generally expect that his replacement will be no more to their liking. For Gary Bauer, a conservative activist who ran for president in 2000, says that, “It’s always been a little uncomfortable for those of us who care about his potential vacancy to be hovering around like a bunch of vultures.” Progress for America, a pro-Bush political organization, put up the first television ad of the court battle last week, spending $700,000 to warn that liberals would launch a smear campaign against whomever Bush nominates. The group has another ad ready to go to 8.7 million e-mail addresses, as well as banner ads for popular Web sites.