January 3, 2007

"Rehnquist expressed 'bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts. He imagined, for example, that there was a CIA plot against him.'"

From the newly released FBI file on William H. Rehnquist:
[I]n 1986, the FBI conducted an intensive investigation into Rehnquist's dependence on Placidyl, a strong painkiller that he had taken since the early 1970s for insomnia and back pain....

The FBI's 1986 report on Rehnquist's drug dependence was not released at the time of his confirmation [as Chief Justice], though some Democratic senators wanted it made public. But it is in Rehnquist's now-public file, and it contains new details about his behavior during his weeklong hospital stay in December 1981. One physician whose name is blocked out told the FBI that Rehnquist expressed "bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts. He imagined, for example, that there was a CIA plot against him."

The doctor said Rehnquist "had also gone to the lobby in his pajamas in order to try to escape." The doctor said Rehnquist's delirium was consistent with him suddenly stopping his apparent daily dose of 1400 milligrams of the drug -- nearly three times higher than the 500-milligram maximum recommended by physicians. The doctor said, "Any physician who prescribed it was practicing very bad medicine, bordering on malpractice."

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

So it wasn't just that history turned on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2000, but it may have been that the difference was made by a guy who was high on prescription drugs!

Balfegor said...

Wow. I feel sympathy, but also a touch of horror that a public figure was on what the article suggests may have been mind-altering drugs, while exercising significant responsibility (as an associate justice). Shades of President Kennedy. Cor.

Simon said...

Click through, Eli. The article makes it quite clear that "[d]octors ... wean[ed] him off the drug slowly, reducing gradually until he stopped taking the drug altogether in February 1982. At that point, doctors said Rehnquist was cured of his dependence." We're talking about events before Rehnquist was even made Chief, literally decades before Bush v. Gore.

vnjagvet said...

Eli:

If you read the article, you will find your timeline is off nearly 20 years.

He was weaned off of the painkiller, according to the article, in 1981.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't just about everyone at some point thought that the CIA was out to get them? Granted, I work in the mental health field, so I see a lot of people who share Rehnquist's thoughts in that respect...

Anonymous said...

In my life I've seen several normally rational people become completely delusional and frighteningly out of touch with reality as a result of heavy doses of pain medication. Ann's headline blew me away, but the details show clearly this was a very temporary condition. Any one of us could have been affected the same way by drugs like this.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't just about everyone at some point thought that the CIA was out to get them?

Touche, Matt! (4 the whole thing, not just the quote)

As for the quote: How do we know they aren't? ;-)

Troy said...

Rehnquist really was whack. Everyone knows in 1981 the CIA was trying to work on inserting crack into black neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

hdhouse said...

Gosh I kinda liked it when he wore that robe to the Clinton Impeachment..you know the one that looked like he walked off the set of the Student Prince?

amazing.

LoafingOaf said...

He may have been paranodi from the drug, but in general I don't know that it's bizarre and outrageous for people in powerful positions to think the CIA is plotting against them. The CIA does do that fairly often.

How ethical is it for a doctor to tell the FBI so many details, such as that he went to the lobby in his pajamas?

Whatever problems he had, it was a temporary medical problem caused by a doctor: Dr. Freeman Cary, then the attending physician of the Capitol -- whose services are also available to Supreme Court justices -- told agents that he began prescribing Placidyl to Rehnquist in 1972 for insomnia and continued to do so until the 1981 episode.

So he slurred his speech for a few weeks because a doctor got him hooked on a pain killer, then he successfully got himself free of that problem. *shrug*

Richard said...

To assume Rehnquist had "crazy" thoughts while on the job (and on the drug) is not justified. Many people experience "bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts" during withdrawal from addictive drugs that they never had while actually using the drug on a daily basis. This is, in fact, one of the reasons hospitalization is recommended.

Gerry said...

Rehnquist as House?

I bet this article will garner the typical expressions of sympathy from the left side of the aisle. And suddenly, drug use will matter-- even when it was for pain and even when it was by prescription.

Sissy Willis said...

It strikes me as "very bad medicine, bordering on malpractice" for a physician to blab to the FBI.

Icepick said...

As for the quote: How do we know they [the CIA] aren't?

Because they're just not that competent.

hdhouse said...

hmmm 1981 when this came to a head...and after how many years?

just curious...the SC was in session that year right? Just wondering if they decided anything and if Mr. Rehnquist participated...

duhhhhhh

Anonymous said...

Eli Blake said...

So it wasn't just that history turned on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2000, but it may have been that the difference was made by a guy who was high on prescription drugs!

OH MY GOD!!! Are you people still whining about Bush v. Gore???? A self-respecting loser* would have stopped crying in public about this...oh, i don't know, maybe SIX YEARS AGO!!!

*used here to mean "not the winner"

Anonymous said...

Very amusing to read in an FBI report that the subject thought the CIA was out to get him. Why, he could be accused of slightly fuzzy prescience! Everybody knows them spooks are hard to tell apart.

Anonymous said...

Wait! Maybe the CIA leaked this story...on Cheney's orders...to get John Roberts to stop whining about judicial pay! "What we did to Rehnquist, well, Johnny boy, the Patriot Acts gives us lots more things we can do to you!"

Ann Althouse said...

Rehnquist had to submit to the FBI investigation to go through the appointment process for Chief Justice (in 1986). The doctor didn't breach any privacy obligations. Rehnquist had to consent. (As far as I know.) The interesting thing is that he didn't decline the Chief Justiceship considering that all this information would be revealed, eventually, because of FOIA, to everyone. The images of the CJ wandering about in his pajamas, raving paranoaically, trying to escape from a hospital.... just amazing.

Al Maviva said...

Everyone knows in 1981 the CIA was trying to work on inserting crack into black neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

Troy, you know that's a compleat load of crap.

Everybody knows they were too busy inventing and spreading AIDS and masterminding a Halliburton takeover of Iraq to get at Lithuanian oil reserves, to be pushing crack in black neighborhoods.

Removing the tongue from cheek, the thing that kills me about paranoids and conspiracy theorists is that all recent history testifies that the CIA probably isn't capable of doing anything negative that doesn't turn into a front page NY Times story within 6 months of its occurrence.

Gerry said...

No, I don't think Troy knows that it is a load of crap, even though it is.

And it is just that sort of leftist dribble which led to the excesses of the Church and Pike Committees, and to the Torricelli Clause. In other words, to the gutting of our intelligence community's ability to function well.

Some direct consequences: the inability to prevent 9/11, and the lack of correct knowledge of Saddam's WMD programs.

Simon said...

"The interesting thing is that he didn't decline the Chief Justiceship considering that all this information would be revealed, eventually, because of FOIA, to everyone."

That he was willing to risk that perhaps bespeaks Rehnquist's character and his deep commitment to public service. It scarcely exaggerates the point to call him one of the great Chief Justices of American history, and I think he knew that being Chief Justice would maximize his ability to direct the course of the Supreme Court. Nino's my man, but my respect for Rehnquist is expansive. Knowing that he struggled with issues like this only makes him seem more human - hardly a bad thing.

LoafingOaf said...

The doctor didn't breach any privacy obligations. Rehnquist had to consent. (As far as I know.)

Yeah, you have to consent to that sort of thing just to sit for bar exams, so it makes sense he'd have to to be Chief Justice. I don't object to that. But the amount of detail seems odd. Would've seemed enough for the doctors to simply explain what his medical issue was, whether he's okay now, and whether it might impact his ability to sit on the court. Rather gratuitous to get into every ugly detail of his withdrawal symptoms. Good thing for him there wasn't a Drudge Report back then. :)

I agree with the person who said that this humanizes him more, which isn't bad.

Troy said...

Gerry,

Take a Zoloft. The idea that the CIA is competent enough to either intentionally or accidentally kill folks with crack or AIDS is laughable in the extreme. (or even that they would if they could)

My tongue was firmly in my cheek. Any familiarity with my comments here may show me to be unfunny or perhaps even irrelevant -- but I'm no whack job.