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The Challenge: How a Maverick Navy Officer and a Young Law Professor Risked Their Careers to Defend the Constitution--and Won Paperback – July 21, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0312428853 ISBN-10: 0312428855 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (July 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312428855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312428853
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"[The Challenge] tells the story of a captive who gave his name to a great constitutional decision, and it describes the personal struggles of his lawyers, their courage, and their faults. . . . A work of rare drama."---Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books

"A riveting read."---San Francisco Chronicle

"The Challenge is not just a very readable account of an important case. It is also an intimate account of the lawyers who overcame personal conflicts, animus, and flaws to produce a decision for the ages." ---The New York Times

"An excellent legal thriller . . . It's through Mahler's brilliant narrative of these characters that he weaves together the broader, legally complex story of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld."---The Toronto Star

"Mahler excels at telling the story of a talented, fractious team coming together for a greater goal."---The New Yorker

"For those who thrill to what might be called the geology of American constitutional bedrock, The Challenge is a riveting read."---The New York Sun

 

About the Author

JONATHAN MAHLER, a writer for The New York Times Magazine, is the author of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gillian A on September 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
In this extensively researched book, Jonathan Mahler tells the gripping and astonishing story of the knotty sequence of events leading to an historic Supreme Court trial. He takes us into the personal lives of two young lawyers from very different backgrounds - one an academic and the other a navy JAG attorney - who come together (with the help of some white-shoe firms) in the defense of a 5'6", 130 pound, Yemini detainee in Guantanamo. It is a fascinating tale, both from the legal aspect and the impact the events had on the personal and professional lives of those involved. It is, at times, impossible to put down.
The book essentially ends with the dramatic 5-3 win in the Supreme Court. However, the final chapter tells of the subsequent trial in Bush's Military Commission, its conclusion and the defendant's final repatriation.
Recently, (I have read) the film rights were bought by George Clooney.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By not me VINE VOICE on November 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
"The Challenge" is the story of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, one of the landmark Constitutional cases of our time. The case began when Hamdan, a Yemeni jihadist incarcerated at Guantanamo, was accused of war crimes and set for trial before a military commission. Expected to plead guilty, Hamdan instead challenged the legality of the commissions, arguing that they had been set up in violation of the Constitution and international law. He was represented by a Navy lawyer and a law prof at Georgetown, who ended up winning the case -- sort of -- in the Supreme Court.

The book is non-fiction, but leans heavily on novelistic devices such as reconstructed dialogue, access to the inner lives of characters, and atmospheric details that help readers visualize the action. The author had great materials to work with -- terrorism, official lawlessness, crusading lawyers, and a satisfying outcome -- so it's no surprise that his book is a pageturner. I raced through it in just a few days, loving every page of it.

That said, I was struck by the absence of scholarly apparatus (such as footnotes) or respect for journalistic conventions (such as balance). And I was very disappointed that the author wrote an entire book about the most important Presidential war powers case since Youngstown Steel without trying to unpack the law at the heart of the litigation. "The Challenge" treats its legal material as background scenery -- including the Geneva Conventions, the war powers clause, the Habeas Corpus Act, and the Hamdan opinion itself. Instead, the book's focus is relentlessly on the lawyers -- on their rivalries, their neuroses, their tactical disagreements, their family lives, their punishing workloads, and so on, in elaborate cinematic detail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By FanteFan on March 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fascinating tale of political and legal maeuvering that leads to a landmark Supreme Court ruling. You know a non-fiction writer has done his/her job when you forget you're reading a factual, not fictional account. Mahler is thorough but fair and never let's the story bog down in minutiae. It's a thoroughly satisfying read.
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This book presents a compelling account of how the American justice system addresses and determines the rule of law, and it tells this story by laying out the details in an informative and entertaining description of the events and persons that come together to ask a question that has been asked again and again since the United States Constitution was first written and adopted. The question has three parts: who writes the law, who administers the law, and who reviews it to ensure it remains true to U.S. Constitutional requirements.

The author is a journalist and honors the objective standards of his profession.

While many of the actions taken by various persons in authority while America has been tied up in the so called "War on Terror" have given many the cause to cringe and question motivations and effectiveness of those actions, the telling of this story helps to remind us why our law and our citizens make being American something to be proud of when our process lives up to our duty to both. Although being a lawyer might enhance the reading, a law degree is not required to understand it.
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This book tells the behind the scenes story of the making of the landmark Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Supreme Court decision. I couldn't put it down, and highly recommend it.
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