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The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court [Kindle Edition]

Jeffrey Toobin
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (235 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the prizewinning author of The Nine, a gripping insider's account of the momentous ideological war between the John Roberts Supreme Court and the Obama administration.

From the moment John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, blundered through the Oath of Office at Barack Obama's inauguration, the relationship between the Supreme Court and the White House has been confrontational. Both men are young, brilliant, charismatic, charming, determined to change the course of the nation—and completely at odds on almost every major constitutional issue. One is radical; one essentially conservative. The surprise is that Obama is the conservative—a believer in incremental change, compromise, and pragmatism over ideology. Roberts—and his allies on the Court—seek to overturn decades of precedent: in short, to undo the ultimate victory FDR achieved in the New Deal.
   This ideological war will crescendo during the 2011-2012 term, in which several landmark cases are on the Court's docket—most crucially, a challenge to Obama's controversial health-care legislation. With four new justices joining the Court in just five years, including Obama's appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, this is a dramatically—and historically—different Supreme Court, playing for the highest of stakes.
   No one is better positioned to chronicle this dramatic tale than Jeffrey Toobin, whose prize-winning bestseller The Nine laid bare the inner workings and conflicts of the Court in meticulous and entertaining detail. As the nation prepares to vote for President in 2012, the future of the Supreme Court will also be on the ballot.

Editorial Reviews Review

A Letter from the Author

Jeffrey Toobin

Think John Roberts has discovered his inner moderate? Don’t bet on it.

It is true, of course, that Chief Justice Roberts’s vote in the health-care case saved the Affordable Care Act – and perhaps Barack Obama’s presidency as well. At the end of the Supreme Court’s last term, Roberts joined with the Court’s four liberals – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – to uphold the constitutionality of the health-care reform law. It was the first time ever that the Chief joined with the liberal quartet in a major case. It’s also probably the last.

Roberts has the advantage of a long-term perspective. At fifty-seven years old, Roberts will likely still be Chief Justice when Sasha and Malia Obama become eligible to succeed their father in the White House. Roberts’s decision in the health-care case reflected his understanding of his place in the history of the Court. In terms of public attention, the health-care case – known as National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius – formed a trilogy with Bush v. Gore (2000) and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). In those first two cases, five Republican appointees to the Court rendered decisions which provided dramatic benefits to the Republican Party – the first, by installing George W. Bush as president, and the second, by creating a campaign finance system that favors the GOP. In the health-care case, Roberts had to ask himself whether the five Republicans on the Court were going to destroy the central achievement of a Democratic president.

Roberts chose not to go that far. His Republican allies, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, overplayed their hand. They sought to invalidate the law it its entirety, not just the controversial individual mandate. If Roberts had joined them, the Chief would have stirred volcanic partisan outrage and placed the Supreme Court at the center of the 2012 election. Instead, he chose a novel ground – Congress’s constitutional power to levy taxes – to uphold the law. He established new limits on the Commerce Clause, which is usually the principal means for Congress to regulate the economy. He advanced the conservative cause in the long run by disappointing conservatives in the short run.

Chief Justice Roberts also gave himself a political free hand for the foreseeable future. He can be as conservative as he likes and he has insulated himself from criticism for partisanship. That will be important – soon. The Court will likely consider several politically incendiary issues in its 2012-13 term. May universities use race as a consideration in admissions, as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said they could, in a famous decision from 2003? Does the Voting Rights Act of 1965 discriminate against white voters and legislators in southern states? Does the Defense of Marriage Act discriminate unlawfully against gay people? And – most dramatically of all – does the constitution include a right to same-sex marriage?

Look for Roberts to lead the conservative side on all of these issues. For the next year, and many more, the Chief Justice’s vote in the health-care case will be seen as the great aberration of his judicial career.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* From the awkward swearing-in of President Obama by Chief Justice Roberts to Obama’s caustic reaction to the Citizens United ruling to Roberts’ support of Obama’s health-care law, the tumultuous relationship between the administration and the Supreme Court has been increasingly evident. Both Harvard-educated lawyers, Obama and Roberts are known for their charm and intelligence, but their very different political perspectives have promised friction from the beginning, particularly as changes in the composition of the court resonate with the changes in national politics. Legal analyst Toobin offers a vivid inside look at the personalities and politics behind the fractious relationship. Roberts’ honeymoon lasted 12 months before the fault lines in the court cracked along ideological lines, with conservatives disappointed in his attempts at equanimity and liberals distrustful of his behind-the-scenes maneuverings. Toobin details the politics behind decisions about what cases even get heard as well as the procedural strategies that affect the final rulings. Among the highlights: Ginsburg’s scathing dissent on a ruling against a claim of pay disparity, in which she urged congressional action; Souter’s caustic dissent in Citizens United that questioned Roberts’ integrity; and Scalia’s bitter disappointment in Roberts’ decision on the health-care law. A revealing look at the ideological battle between the White House and the Supreme Court. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The best-selling author of The Nine (2007) revisits the Supreme Court in a timely book that is sure to draw plenty of interest during the election season. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Reporting, Questionable Legal Analysis September 26, 2012
By H. P.
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Toobin provides brief, biographical info on each of the associate justices and Chief Justice Roberts and President Obama because he believes their background provides a window to their views. It is probably not entirely clear why, in his short histories of Roberts and Obama, that Toobin details the rise of Critical Legal Studies at Harvard Law School. After all, Roberts' tenure at Harvard predated the Crits, and Obama never bought into their views. So why bring it up? The answer lies in Toobin's background. Like Roberts and Obama, Toobin graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and was on law review. Unlike Roberts and Obama, Toobin is a Crit. That is, he buys fully into the theory that all law is merely a vehicle for the application of politics. The Oath should be viewed through that lens. To Toobin, every opinion the justices write is written to advance the positions of their party. This view is ridiculous, which is why CLS is now discredited in the academy, but it still has an obvious adherent in Toobin. Toobin is also a very good journalist and writer.

The Oath shines as a piece of journalism, as a work of current history of the Supreme Court, tracking it from Obama's inauguration. The short bios of the President and each justice are sterling. As is his reporting of the twists and turns of Citizens United and the Obamacare case between oral argument and opinion (this is particularly impressive, sources within the Supreme Court are hard to come by). Interestingly, Toobin thinks it was law clerks, not the justices themselves, who provided leaks on Obamacare, contrary to the conventional wisdom.

Toobin has a good handle on each justice's writing style.
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53 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, Provocative and Stimulating! September 19, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin

"The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court" is the riveting book that covers the evolution of the Supreme Court with a focus on how it relates to President Obama's administration. It discusses many of the hot-button issues of today by the Roberts-led Supreme Court while making precise historical references. It provides enlightening characterizations of the current justices including recent retirees. Award-winning author, senior legal analyst at CNN and Harvard Law School, Jeffrey Toobin, has written an expertly crafted book for the masses that goes inside the Supreme Court and provides readers with the current struggles of constitutional interpretation. This enlightening 352-page book is composed of twenty-three chapters within five parts.

1. A beautifully written book that covers the evolution of the Supreme Court to its current form. Enlightening, provocative and stimulating.
2. Riveting topic in the hands of a skilled author.
3. Even-handed and fair. A book of this ilk must cover the main angles of the issues to be fair and it does. Toobin does this book, dare I say it...justice.
4. The book is full of captivating tidbits, personality traits and facts about the justices. I really enjoyed how the author masterfully interweaved the personalities and philosophies of each one of the justices within the context of court cases.
5. The book provides readers with terrific insight on what it entails to be a Supreme Court justice. The preparation, intelligence and caution it takes to be an elite within elite. "It is important to be identified enough with one party to have patrons, but not so closely that you have enemies."
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 1/5 of an Excellent Book October 5, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Four-fifths of this book seemed disorganized, newsy, or anecdotal.

First, the disorganization. Toobin starts off by talking about the controversial oath of office delivered by Roberts to Obama upon the latter's election to the presidency. He then spends the first part of the book tracing the rise of both these individuals through their chosen professions. So far, so good. However, weaved in this discussion is a series of chapters that examine Ginsburg and Breyer and the cases that defined their careers. Huh? Part two follows with a look at Scalia before going BACK to an example of Obama's bipartisanship before then examining the appointment of Sotomayor. Part three looks at Citizens United, Alito, and Stevens. Part four looks at Kagan's appointment, Thomas, and retired justices O'Connor and Souter. Still following? Finally, part five examines the subtitle of this book by examining in detail Obama and the Court through the lens of the Affordable Care Act decision. Throughout much of the first 250 pages, I found myself wondering how exactly the President and Roberts figured into this book, or where the book was headed.

Second, the fact that this book is "newsy" stands out because a lot of what Toobin writes has already been reported elsewhere. Although I enjoyed the pages on Souter's quirks, O'Connor's struggle to care for her husband, and Kagan's relationship with Scalia, a lot of this has been documented extensively (and better) elsewhere -- the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times. Thus, a reader can spend a lot of time trying to find his/her way through the chapters only to learn details that have already been reported.

Last, in examining the justices, Toobin cites maybe five pages of sources.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the recent ...
This book is informative and well-written. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the recent court decisions, as well as the way the supreme court works. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars but book arrived in perfect condition and VERY quickly
Haven't read it yet, but book arrived in perfect condition and VERY quickly. I loved Toobin's The NIne, so I am especially looking forward to this book also. Read more
Published 1 month ago by savvy shopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fantastic. I can't write highly enough of Toobin's writing. Makes me want to read every book he's written.
Published 1 month ago by John Robert Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars A Best Read of the Court
Jeffery Toobin's books, The Nine and The Oath, should be required reading for all. His understanding as to the way the Supreme Court operates opens the now closed doors of the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Firefighter
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Fair and informative and well written.
Published 2 months ago by Lois C. Hamilton
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it because Toobin deals with reality and not on ...
I loved it because Toobin deals with reality and not on who he favors in politics
Published 2 months ago by P. Howell
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary how politics affect unknowing public
I never knew how much politics truly interested me or really how much they trickled down to affect our every-day lives. It is really very scary when you think about it! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Synzeeza
1.0 out of 5 stars Simplified and biased
Largely written elsewhere, feels plagiarized. Bias is clear. Overall, intellectually dishonest.
Published 3 months ago by michael
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very well written for the novice.
Published 3 months ago by Marlene
5.0 out of 5 stars Read about the politics of our Supreme (? ) ...
Read about the politics of our Supreme (?) Court. I don't know whether to laugh or cry about Scalia.
Published 3 months ago by cinejevu
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More About the Author

Jeffrey Toobin is a staff writer at The New Yorker, senior legal analyst at CNN, and the bestselling author of The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, The Nine, Too Close to Call, A Vast Conspiracy, The Run of His Life and Opening Arguments. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, he lives with his family in New York.


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