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The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court Hardcover – September 18, 2012
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A Letter from the Author
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
"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."
6.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Toobin expertly captures the drama and excitement of the Supreme Court processes, while delivering a measured and detailed account of a number of high and mid profile cases. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Brandon H. Meginley
Great read. Loved his perspective on Thomas and Scalia. Interfering observation of Roberts. I learned a lot and enjoyed it!Published 5 months ago by Amy
A fantastic read. If one likes politics this is definitely a book for you.Published 7 months ago by David M. Penn
If you enjoyed “The Nine” by Jeffrey Toobin, you must read “The Oath.” Both works focus on the intricacies of the United States Supreme Court. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Charles E. Speaks