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53 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, Provocative and Stimulating!, September 19, 2012
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This review is from: The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court (Hardcover)
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 It discusses many of the hot-button issues of today by the Roberts-led Supreme Court while making precise historical references.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.

Positives:
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. The main philosophical differences between liberal and conservative Supreme Court Justices. Many fascinating stories and keen insight. As an example, the idea of unenumerated rights (liberals), and the concept of textualism (conservatives)...
7. Biographies of President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts.
8. Fascinating court cases. Many examples throughout the book. From celebrities (Anna Nicole Smith) to Health Care Reform. Of course, the paramount case of Brown v. Board of Education
9. Ruth Bader Ginsberg her contributions and her quest to give women a voice. The "Thurgood Marshall of the feminist movement."
10. One of my favorite chapters, "Wise Latina" of course I'm talking about the nomination process of the 111th Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor. As district court judge she saved baseball. I also enjoyed the recent tradition of her colleagues greeting her with the silent treatment, just like baseball when a rookie phenom hits that first homerun.
11. Issues of taxation (corporations as people), labor issues, right-to-life versus choice, gun control, race, and finance reform are among the many interesting topics covered.
12. The case of Citizens United that illustrates the themes of corporate power, freedom of speech and the intersection of law and politics. The deep political implications.
13. The question that changed a case and perhaps American history. Censorship.
14. The evolution of the Supreme Court to its current more conservative makeup led by Chief Justice Roberts.
15. The interesting parallels between Roberts and Kagan (the Frozen Yogurt Justice).
16. The swing-vote power of Justice Kennedy.
17. The White House's reactions to Supreme Court rulings. How new laws can counter "bad" rulings and the issue of separation of powers. The confrontations between the Obama White House and the Roberts Supreme Court.
18. An interesting look at the retired justices and their influences. To name one of the three, the impact of Sandra Day O'Connor. Her stunning retirement and its deep-felt implications. Her views on Chief Justice Roberts.
19. The nomination and confirmation process of a Supreme Court Justice. How it has evolved over the years. The politics involved. In depth look at Sotomayor and Kagan's nomination process.
20. The impact of the Tea Party: antitaxation, antiregulation, and ant-abortion. "Above all, Tea Party members were originalists, dedicated to restoring the modern government of the U.S. to the views, as they understood them. Of the eighteenth-century framers."
21. The controversial selection of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. His rulings, his impact to the evermore conservative court. The attempt to get Thomas off the health care case. His customary silence.
22. Court cases involving "separation" of church and state.
23. The health care reform issue, the debate the battle, discussions on individual mandates, the results and the stunning decision from Chief Justice Roberts. The ramifications of the decision.
24. Roberts' agenda, his goals for his tenure as chief justice. On the other hand, the apparent lack of interest of the President in judicial nominations.
25. Notes and bibliography provided.

Negatives:
1. Charts and lists of Supreme Court justices would have added value.
2. Having to buy more books for friends and family.

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The combination of fascinating topics in the hands of a lucid storywriter makes for a great insightful book. From the blunder of the Oath of Office to the surprising decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, this book covers everything as it relates to the Obama presidency and the Supreme Court. It also provides fascinating historical narratives of the Supreme Court including political themes of paramount importance. All the major hot-button themes are covered with great skill and Toobin does a wonderful job of covering multiple angles of issues. This book turned out to be an intellectual treat. If you have any interest in the Supreme Court this is the book for you. I highly recommend it!

Further suggestions: "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court" by the same author, "The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction" by Linda Greenhouse, "Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir" by John Paul Stevens, "The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court" by Bob Woodward, "Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court" by Jan Crawford Greenburg, "The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America" by Jeffrey Rosen, "Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View" by Stephen Breyer, "The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice" by Sandra Day O'Connor and "Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality" by Richard Kluger.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 19, 2012 3:07:14 PM PDT
thorough review, thanks! Question: are the endnotes/footnotes/sourcing notes extensive enough? (so I know whether to get kindle or hardback) Thanks again

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2012 3:25:02 PM PDT
Book Shark says:
Peter,

Thanks for the kind words. The notes are NOT extensive. I still prefer Kindle just because of the ease to search and download highlights. As you can tell, I really liked this book. It's fantastic!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2012 5:07:58 PM PDT
much appreciated...I asked one other reviewer and await his/her answer...I'm the sort who likes flipping back and forth to notes while reading and I haven't mastered that yet w kindle! btw, your point 10, Sotomayor came from the 2nd circuit. I had the privilege of trying two jury cases before her when she was a district court judge. Happened to be in court the day the baseball case was heard. Bobby Bonilla had the best player's seat right up front and with other stars. Again, nice, comprehensive way to break down the book, thanks!

Posted on Sep 19, 2012 9:13:44 PM PDT
Jill Meyer says:
Very good review.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 29, 2012 5:32:23 PM PDT
Excellent review. So you're about evenly split between positives and negatives then...

Posted on Jun 23, 2013 2:34:01 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2013 3:24:41 AM PDT
R. Hager says:
I would add a third negative, put pair it with another positive. Toobin tends to show excellent judgment based on reportorial weighing of sources, assessments of personality or political issues. But, notwithstanding his legal background, he tends to accept erroneous conventional wisdom on legal issues. One example is where he says, p. 194, that "A Supreme Court decision interpreting the Constitution can be overturned only by a new decision or by a constitutional amendment." Tell that to Lincoln concerning Dred Scott (the first time the Court used the Constitution to overturn an act of Congress). Or to any of the other presidential greats (Madison, Jefferson, Jackson, T Roosevelt, FD Roosevelt) who all denied the Court the last word on constitutional decisions like Citizens United that affect the whole public rather than just the parties to the case. FDR's court-packing plan, for example, was not unconstitutional, he simply did not invest any political capital into winning legislation because his mere advocacy of the plan more efficiently served FDR's purpose of turning the Court around within just months of its announcement by attacking the judges personally as antiquated old men. Toobin's error ignores Article III, Sec 2 Clause 2 which Roosevelt also considered using. It permits Congress to strip the Court of appellate jurisdiction - a power invoked more in the 19th century, such as in the McCardle case, and in numerous bills penned by the Republican right in more recent times, and occasionally enacted by one house of Congress. It is only the positive reputation acquired by the long New Deal Court (especially from the talismanic Brown v Board), which essentially ended when O'Connor retired, that has given rise to a judicial supremacy ideology among liberals like Toobin, as reflected in this error. The Court's now fading popularity has made use of the Article III authority of Congress over the Supreme Court's appellat jurisdiction politically unpopular. But the judicial supremacy ideology actually has no constitutional foundation.

This error of Toobin's, with which many on the right, such as Ron Paul would disagree, is worth mentioning because it is of great importance to the fundamental question of how the people can recover their democracy from the five unelected servants of plutocracy that have controlled the Court since 2006, and have turned it the purpose of overthrowing democracy by corruption. As Toobin so well demonstrates "Roberts channel[s] the corporate priorities of the Republican establishment," p. 254. It is his Court which in cases like Arizona Free Enterprise, "most obviously the chief justice was doing the bidding of the contemporary [activist] Republican Party, which hated campaign finance reform." p. 259. This will likely continue another 25 years, Toobin predicts, unless what seemed like eternal liberal verities are seen to be no longer relevant by influential reporters like Toobin.
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