New Yorker writer and CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin offers an astute and thorough analysis of the relationship between the Obama White House and the John Roberts-led Supreme Court.
From the tragedy at Sandy Hook to the Affordable Care Act to same-sex marriage, it looks as though every major news event and issue of consequence these days involves the Supreme Court in meaningful way.Skip to next paragraph
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For the longtime court follower Jeffrey Toobin, the timing couldn’t be better for The Oath, his astute and thorough analysis of the relationship between the Obama White House and the John Roberts-led Supreme Court. Fittingly, Toobin, a staff writer at The New Yorker and an analyst at CNN, begins his account with the 2009 oath of office rendered – and botched – by Roberts while swearing in Obama as the 44th president.
The story of the oath ceremony, and a subsequent encore aimed at removing any doubt about the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency, demonstrate the author’s penchant for making a larger point (the strained Obama-Roberts interactions) while offering brisk historical perspective. As for the latter, how many Americans could recall that George Washington never took the oath of office (the Supreme Court didn’t exist at the time) or that Oliver Ellsworth was the first chief justice to handle the task in 1797 (for John Adams)?
Toobin notes that lower-level judges have sworn in several presidents, leaving the chief justice on the sidelines. And, of course, circumstances dictated federal district judges dispense the oath in the cases of LBJ and Theodore Roosevelt, both of whom took office in the wake of assassinations. The anecdotes served up in these pages tend to be gems. To cite one of many examples, Toobin mentions a walk-through a week prior to Obama’s inaugural. An aide offered the chief justice a card bearing the oath, but Roberts demurred. “That’s okay,” he told the aide. “I know the oath.”
Until, of course, he forgot it. Here, too, Toobin provides interesting context, noting that Roberts has earned raves throughout his life for his prodigious memory. Running through specific cases and pivotal moments in the fortunes of the nine justices, Toobin combines contemporary history with a solid primer on how the political divide drives the court and its decisions today. Along the way, he juxtaposes the activist judicial philosophy of Roberts and his fellow conservative Republican justices on the court with a similar approach fostered by liberal Democrats during the 1960s and 1970s, starting with the tenure of Earl Warren.