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Detailed and Informative Contemporary View of the Roberts Court,
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This review is from: The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court (Hardcover)
Our current Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, is playing an important and often controversial role in how our government impacts our current society.
The opening prologue of the book describes the events leading up to the administration of the Oath of Office for Obama's first term as President. Toobin describes how an oversight by staffers who failed to provide Obama with the short document prepared by Roberts (which described the way in which Roberts intended to administer the Oath) contributed to Roberts and Obama getting out-of-synch during the Oath, and which therefore resulted in the famous misstatement of a few words in the Oath and ended up requiring the very un-precedented and embarrassing need to re-administer the Oath so that there would be no later questions on whether or not Obama had actually been sworn in properly!
That episode has little to do with the main premise of the book but it does serve to set the stage and illustrate the personalities of Obama and Roberts, who despite their very similar backgrounds and academic training, have vastly different views of how the Constitution should be interpreted.
Toobin gives a number of examples where he suggests that decisions by the Court under Chief Justice John Roberts are merely a preview of much more to come.
Take for example the 2010 Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The now well-known consequence of this decision, the emergence of Super-PACs which make no contributions to political candidates or campaigns and can therefore accept unlimited contributions from individuals or corporations, has greatly influenced our political process. This decision derived from the Courts decision that the Free Speech provisions of the constitution meant that no restrictions should be placed on financial contributions, since spending money was simply an extension of our exercise of free speech. As a consequence, we now have Super-PACs which are thinly disguised constructions to present the veneer of independence from political candidates, but are in fact for all intents and purposes extensions of political campaigns. Toobin believes that Citizens United is just the first step by the Court in this area, and that we will soon see a decision by the Court that will support less restrictive direct contributions to candidates and campaigns.
Toobin also believes that Clarence Thomas has been leading many of these initiatives. This view of Thomas is quite eye-opening to me. My view of Thomas has been influenced greatly by his complete uninvolvement with oral arguments before the Court (unlike all other Justices, he famously does not ever engage in questioning during oral arguments). However Toobin feels that Thomas has in fact greatly influenced the development of these new views.
If Toobin is right, then we have only seen the beginning of the Supreme Court re-interpreting key laws. So depending upon your point of view, the suggestion that the Supreme Court has a plan or agenda to reinterpret many of the key previous decisions of the court - including most importantly many of those which have made a great impact on our everyday lives - is either positive (and exciting), or negative (and disturbing if not out-and-out threatening).
It seems that the role of the Supreme Court in our everyday lives has taken on more and more importance over the course of the last few decades. I don't know if that is what the Founders intended, but it seems to be the reality of our lives today. The prospect of the Court taking many more dramatic steps in the future, many of which could have significant effects on our lives, such as how the Citizens United case has, is quite thought provoking to say the least. I will be observing the actions of the Court with a new interest and anticipation in the future.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 19, 2012 3:02:43 PM PDT
Peter Hillman says:
excellent review, thank you! Question for you: Does Toobin have decent-length endnotes/footnotes and/or are there good photos? reason for asking: if few notes etc I'll get it on kindle; if lots of endnotes (which I'm hoping for) I'll get it in hardcover. Thanks again!
Posted on Sep 19, 2012 3:03:09 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 19, 2012 3:03:57 PM PDT]
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2012 6:30:44 PM PDT
Phil in Mågnoliá says:
The book does have some photos (there are 8 pages of them in the center of the book).
With respect to notes, there are 9 pages of notes for the 23 chapters plus prologue. The notes consist of references to articles in print, books, published speeches, court decisions, and websites. There are no notes regarding personal interviews - Toobin states that "this book is based principally on my interviews with the justices and more than forty of their law clerks. The interviews were on a not-for-attribution basis - that is, I could use the information provided but without quoting directly or identifying the source".
There are also plenty of references that are mentioned throughout the book, and a bibliography (4 pages).
I am not familiar with the kindle version and can't comment to whether or not it also includes these features.
Hope this helps.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2012 7:32:05 PM PDT
Peter Hillman says:
Phil thanks very much, that's exactly what I needed to know. Based on your and J. Gomez's kind replies, I'm opting for kindle. And thanks again for a top-notch review! Sincerely, Peter
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