The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court
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The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,856 ratings  ·  318 reviews
A Washington Post Notable Work of Nonfiction

From the moment Chief Justice Roberts botched Barack Obama's oath of office, the relationship between the Court and the White House has been a fraught one. Grappling with issues as diverse as campaign finance, abortion, and the right to bear arms, the Roberts court has put itself squarely at the center of American political life....more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Anchor (first published September 18th 2012)
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Lisa B.
My Thoughts

It just so happened that on the day the Supreme Court was going to issue it’s ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA aka Obamacare), I had an appointment with my physician whose office is located within a hospital. Hmmmm - healthcare reform + doctor + hospital - seemed like a good time to ask people their opinion of the Affordable Care Act and their perception on how it would impact them. I, along with the rest of the country was anxiously awaiting the ruling....more
A very personal, almost Robert Caro-style look at the personal relationships and political struggles between the Supreme Court and the presidency over the past two years. A very accessible and well-argued introduction to the extreme complexity of these arguments, and their histories. Makes you almost want to apply to be a lawyer or a judge yourself.

I had heard Toobin speak last month, shortly after the President's reelection. He took the occasion not to speak about the past two years, but inste...more
Jay Connor
"The Oath" is an excellent discussion of the perverse, hypocritical direction the Court has been on and has seen accelerate under Chief Justice John Roberts.

While Citizens v. United and the ruling on the Affordable Care Act are ostensibly at the center of this examination, much of the truth is in the periphery. Clearly it is uncontested that the Court has been moving rightward since the Reagan Administration. What is more telling is that the three most recent retirees -- Stevens, O'Connor, and S...more
This meticulously reported and expertly narrated book is, on the one hand, thrilling, and on the other hand, quite depressing, at least for progressives. In details both personal and political, Toobin lays out how the Supreme Court has fallen into the hands of a conservative majority, masterminded by John Roberts, shepherded by the surprisingly triumphant judicial philosophies of Scalia and Thomas, represented by the swagger of the imperial Kennedy. Toobin places this swing in the context of the...more
If you know what "stare decisis" means and care about it, you should read this book and its predecessor, The Nine. This latest volume deals with the Roberts court and its various conflicts with the Obama administration, and I'm rating it slightly lower as it doesn't have the same historical sweep. Its scope is more like that of a very lengthy New Yorker article.

What comes through here is that liberals and conservatives have very different ways of looking at judicial activism. Liberals want the l...more
From the moment Chief Justice John Roberts swore in President Barack Obama in January 2009, there has been a confrontational relationship between the White House and the Supreme Court. Jeffrey Toobin believes that the basis of the hostility between the President and the Chief Justice is that one is a constitutional conservative and one one is a constitutional radical. And, in his view, it is the President who is essentially conservative on constitutional issues believing in pragmatism, compromis...more
Toobin, master storyteller of the Supreme Court, returns with another great book, full of facts, legal analysis, and political undertones like no other non-fiction author I have read in a long time. The book, while on the surface appearing to be all about the US Supreme Court and the battles during the first Obama Administration, is more about the nine justices (and some that preceded the Administration, whose seats Obama filled) who sit on the Court and their legal histories, Toobin weaves a ma...more
This book, The Oath by Jeffrey Toobin, is the story of the John Roberts Court (at least so far!) and is the follow up to Mr. Toobin's book about the Rehnquist Court, The Nine. I have to confess that I am a Court 'watcher'. I look forward to the end of each term when the latest decisions are announced. Because what happens in the Supreme Court goes virtually unnoticed much of the time, there seems to be an aura of mystery surrounding the Supreme Court and the Justices; that is one of the reasons...more
Bill P.
While the profiles of the current Supreme Court justices are very engaging and the recaps of the issues and decisions of the Court in the last four years are very well presented, it was the reinforcement of the importance of who gets to select the judges that caused me to have the greatest concern about the upcoming election. Appointed for life for heavens sake, these nine people are in a position to basically overturn any decision the constitutionally elected congress puts in place. The Court i...more
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...more
Here Toobin, a Harvard-trained lawyer, CNN legal analyst, and senior staff writer at "The New Yorker" follows up his book on the Renquist Court with one on the Roberts Court, whose history, of course, is still being made. As with "The Nine," primarily about the Renquist Court, Toobin mixes insights about the Supremes personal history and character traits with legal analyses of their decisions/opinions to give us an entertaining and enlightening look at where the Supreme Court is today and how it...more
Parker F
A great update to the excellent THE NINE, and probably more interesting because of reading the earlier work. Toobin succeeds in making a non-legally minded reader feel like a Constitutional scholar and in making familiar, recent history seem like a cliffhanger. I regard the book as fair; however, some partisans might disagree with the characterization of Roberts as a judicial activist or the statement that Anita Hill's allegations against Clarence Thomas are almost certainly true. The more "cons...more
Erik Simon
This is a really terrific book that very accessibly elucidates recent major cases, both their decisions and their legal history. It also gives nice, concise bios on each of the recent judges. I surprised myself by walking away with much greater respect for Thomas than Scalia, even though I think Scalia would probably be more fun to have dinner with. Thomas is just bats, but there's a consistency and intellectual honesty to his craziness. Scalia, as Toobin calls him, has descended into being no m...more
Jean Poulos
Toobin a lawyer and legal reporter based this book on interviews with the Justices and approximately forty of their law clerks. The book is a narrative of the early years of the Roberts Court which produced a series of 5 to 4 decisions that pitted the Obama administration against the conservative Justices. The book ends with the tie breaking vote to uphold The Affordable Care Act. Toobin reveals the goal of the conservative Justices in rolling back laws on gun rights, abortion, gender discrimina...more
A really good insight into the U. S Supreme Court. Toobin shows the development of the legal philosophy of each of the judges and how they have applied that to the recent, most controversial cases. Great explanations of "Citizens United," "Lily Ledbetter," gun control cases, abortion cases, and Obamacare case. Quite accessible for the non-lawyer interested in legal issues.
"I'd feel a whole lot better if one of them had ever run for Sheriff."

That was the response House Speaker Sam Rayburn shared with his fellow Texan, then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson, upon hearing Johnson rave about the brilliance of each of President John F. Kennedy's top aides. I had much the same reaction after reading Jeffrey Toobin's 'The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court.'

After putting down the book I missed retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor all the more. O'Connor, a mod...more
Faye Powell
It took me awhile to finish The Oath, not because it wasn't readable because it is - very - but it takes work for a layperson to attempt to grasp the legalese and the political machinations of the Washington DC world, but it's worth it (though often frustrating and depressing). Tobin does a masterful job of explaining the background and decisions on cases like Citizens United, immigration in Arizona, gun ownership laws in Washington DC, Lily Ledbetter, and especially the Affordable Health Care A...more


I LOVED reading this book. Even reading a book about the Supreme Court seems like it could be really boring, I found myself picking up the book as if it were a drug.


(1) Toobin's sentences are short, and clear, so the sentences breeze by.

(2) The book teaches you a lot of stuff, even for people who currently know next-to-nothing about the Supreme Court. A main theme is that, according to Toobin, the John Roberts Supreme Court is reviving an originalist interpretation o...more
Harry Lane
At one level, this is a book encapsulating recent history of the Supreme Court. Toobin does a nice job of mixing well-known public events with anecdotes of behind the scenes interaction. His writing and organization of the material make for easy reading. And it seems to be fairly well balanced from a political point of view, though Toobin is not the least bit shy about attributing partisanship to the people he is writing about.

However, on another level, the narrative paints a stark picture of th...more
Jeff Toobin, the CNN legal analyst and featured New Yorker magazine columnist, has written a second
book (after 'The Nine') dealing with the inner workings of the Supreme Court. The primary focus of this one is the clash of ideology between President Barack Obama and the court's chief justice, John Roberts. The book takes its name and begins with Robert’s bungling of the oath of office he administered at the Obama inauguration.

Both men came to Washington as brilliant young Harvard Law scholars, d...more
Informative, appealing, left-leaning account of the Supreme Court in the last few years. A good read, especially for election season.

Republicans have done a much better job than Democrats when it comes to defining what is acceptable ideology in a federal judge and then making sure that judges who hew to that ideology are the ones who get confirmed. And the GOP is reaping the benefits of that now.

Overlooked turning point: When the Obama administration was figuring out how to defend the Affordabl...more
Diane Dubay
Don't let the name "Obama" fool you. This is the best, so far, of Jeffrey Toobin's books on the Supreme Court, a peek at the "uber-politicization" of the Supreme Court that tells us, not what to think, but what to think about. My thinking about this well-written book is about where the extreme politicization of the Supreme Court has gotten us: the first woman appointee left a job she loved to care for her ailing husband (no Supreme Court justice of the male persuasion has ever resigned to care f...more
I really enjoyed this book even though I had to stop reading it before bed because I got so riled up about the current Supreme Court! Toobin's argument is that the Roberts' court is dominated by a new breed of conservatives who claim they are protecting the original intent of the Constitution, but in fact are extremely activist judges who are rewriting centuries worth of law. When it comes to the judiciary, Toobin argues that Obama is the conservative and Roberts is the activist with Obama defer...more
The thrilling middle book of Jeffrey Toobin's widely acclaimed "Robes, Gavels, and Precedent" trilogy, "The Oath" continues the story that you first fell for in "The Nine." As readers will recall, the Nine centered around the Supreme Court stories from the Rehnquist Court, most notably the fight over abortion, affirmative action, and gay rights. In the end of that tome, however, change was afoot at One First Street. With the death of the Chief Justice and - more importantly - the retirement of O...more
Excellent, but saddening. I can see the conservative viewpoint around the misuse of the commerce clause to excuse federal intervention into virtually anything, but the conservatives are equally at fault for using parts of the constitution for their ends with equally tortured logic (their "originalist" interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is completely absurd...I personally have no problems with states legislating gun ownership, but to twist the 2nd Amendment--basically ignoring the context of "A...more
While not nearly as good as Toobin's "The Nine", I did like this book. I find the insight into the backgrounds, ideology and personalities of the Supreme Court justices fascinating. It surprises me a little that even the minute details of the legal cases that are cited within the book were interesting and how they influenced the outcome of some later, bigger issues.

What I did not care for, is how much politics have come into play both in the writing of this book and of the judgements of the cou...more
I'm well aware that I've already read about a third of this in the New Yorker; another third is recycled from The Nine; and the final third I probably already knew from listening to Nina Totenberg on NPR (or Jeffrey Toobin himself when he's on Morning Edition). I don't care. I still loved reading it. I've got a Supreme Court fascination and no one is better than Toobin at filling me in on the backstory behind the cases, the political agendas, and the justices' lives (except maybe the sainted Tot...more
Not nearly as well-written, I think, as his previous magnum opus, The Nine. It read sort of like, "I have to write this book; I'm going to write this book; OK, I'm writing this book; ho, I'm not really interested in writing this book...." the whole way through. The thing that got me to finish this one is my interest in the case the Court decided in this period. Like his last work, it gives a nice overview of the constitutional issues that were decided and what the lay of the constitut...more
I was eager to read The Oath and even pre-ordered it due to The Nine being one of my favorite books. The Oath was good, but unfortunately not as engaging not as exciting as The Nine. I also think he far over exaggerates the tension amongst President Obama and CJ Roberts. While I enjoy Toobin's works, The Oath felt to summarize much of what I've already read in his New Yorker pieces. Ultimately, my love with The Nine set my expectations for The Oath as very high, and I was a big disappointed. I w...more
The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
4 stars

There are some topics that you just expect to be dry. It cannot be avoided, it is just the nature of the beast. I would have totally put the Supreme Court in that category before I was introduced to Toobin's work in The Nine and now The Oath.

Toobin makes the highest court in the land come to life with backstories of the cases, the lawyers, and the justices. He shows that their stories are not dry and boring, but impas...more
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Lawyer, author, legal correspondent for CNN and The New Yorker magazine.
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“The study of law can be disappointing at times, a matter of applying narrow rules and arcane procedure to an uncooperative reality; a sort of glorified accounting that serves to regulate the affairs of those who have power—and that all too often seeks to explain, to those who do not, the ultimate wisdom and justness of their condition.” 1 likes
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