THE OATH by Jeffrey Toobin


The Obama White House and the Supreme Court
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A skillful probing of the often-discordant relationship between the president and the Supreme Court.

Having previously examined the intricate machinations of the Supreme Court, CNN and New Yorker legal analyst Toobin (The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, 2008) again turns his scrupulous eye to the Court’s current and future impact on the Obama administration. The author lays the groundwork for his examination by citing Chief Justice John Roberts’ awkward 2009 fumbling of the presidential oath of office (later re-administered, to Obama’s annoyance) and proceeds to retrace Court history and the persistent political distance separating the presidential seat and the justices. Setting a congenial yet authoritative tone, Toobin notes that Obama and Roberts also share similarities as academic overachievers who attended Harvard Law School and officiated the student-produced Harvard Law Review. Their differences, writes the author, are rooted in the application of the Constitution: Obama believes in traditional values and stability, while Roberts is eager for the Supreme Court to usher in new changes and an evolving understanding of the Constitution’s core signification. Toobin deftly tracks Roberts’ political history and examines issues that best tested the Court’s decisiveness—e.g., abortion, gun control, radical protests and health care. A consummate profiler, Toobin nimbly features key Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and “intellectual pathbreaker” Clarence Thomas. Culled primarily from interviews with unnamed justices and their respective law clerks, Toobin offers a well-balanced, literate and interpretative survey of the multifaceted intercourse between the conservative Supreme Court and our liberal president.

Shrewd and elucidating.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-52720-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2012


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On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, Jeffrey Toobin’s new book American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1,500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors’ crusade. Or did she? “Despite the lack of participation from Hearst, this is a well-informed, engaging work from a highly capable author,” our reviewer writes. View video >


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