Ever since Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist disclosed last fall that he was being treated for thyroid cancer, Washington has buzzed with rumors of his imminent retirement. Inaugural officials say Rehnquist is still expected to administer the oath of office to George W. Bush this Thursday. For most Americans, the swearing-in will be the first public glimpse of the ailing justice since his treatment began.
Despite a New York Post report that the chief justice appeared frail during a visit to the Capitol last week, court insiders say he has regained strength. After a wheelchair ride through the underground corridors of the Capitol, Rehnquist got up and walked the route to the inaugural platform that he�ll travel later this week. Although his voice is raspy and he hasn�t appeared on the bench�a recent statement blamed �secretions� from his radiation treatment�he has been performing other duties at the Court. �He�s walking around. He�s going to the office,� says former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray. �If they put a microphone in the right place, his voice will carry� during the inauguration, Gray says.
Some court watchers now think that even if he decides to resign shortly, Rehnquist could stay through the end of the term this June. �If he truly is feeling better, he�s not going to be in any rush to go,� says Washington lawyer Tom Goldstein, who practices before the court. �We�re all reading medical tea leaves.�