Book reviews from The Free Lance-Star.
More alike than it appears?
By Lindley Estes
The Free Lance-Star
JEFFREY TOOBIN couldn’t have published “The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court” at a better time: right after the court’s landmark decision on health care. His newest book explains the tense relationship between the Obama White House and the U.S. Supreme Court.
But timeliness isn’t the only reason to pick up Toobin’s book.Already immersed in the politics of the Supreme Court with his book “The Nine,” published four years ago, Toobin was well prepared to delve into another consideration of the court’s politics.
“The Oath” is meticulously researched (he informs readers in the book that he interviewed justices and more than 40 of their law clerks). The facts alone would make for a good read, but it’s Toobin’s knack for storytelling that carries the book.
Toobin comes at the story from every angle he can, as a journalist, a legal analyst and an author. He knows how to tell a story, and he has the credentials to back up his claims.
“The Oath” begins with Chief Justice John Roberts’ botched oath at Barack Obama’s inauguration and lays out Toobin’s thesis about the two: that these two men are more alike than you think. They both attended Harvard Law and were both editors of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. They are both products of Chicago and are at the top of their professions. Each has two young children.
The differences in background, he argues, account for their divided opinions on the U.S. Constitution.
But it’s Roberts who is the constitutional radical and Obama the conservative.
Where Toobin falters is in making the argument too black-and-white. He creates relatable characters out of justices and politicians, noting details like Justice Kagan referring to herself as the “frozen-yogurt justice” after she acquired a frozen-yogurt machine for the Supreme Court’s cafeteria. The book is full of such details.
But he does not use the same subtle, humanizing technique in his argument about the relationship between the president and the chief justice. Toobin pits them against each other. Roberts’ botched oath is a perfect metaphor for their dynamic. They both want the same thing, but their views don’t quite match up.
He describes the men on their own well, with surprising details that make them relatable, but their interactions are never quite as remarkable.
At 298 pages, Toobin’s story is easy to follow, and at times even suspenseful.
Lindley Estes is a reporter with The Free Lance–Star.
THE OATH: THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE AND THE SUPREME COURT
By Jeffrey Toobin
(Doubleday, $28.95, 352 pp.)
1. Be respectful. No personal attacks.
2. Please avoid offensive, vulgar, abusive, hateful or defamatory language.
3. Read and follow THE RULES.
4. Please notify us by flagging posts that are inappropriate.
Posts that include links, and posts from users with unverified e-mail addresses may take longer to appear.