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The Oath: The Obama White House and The Supreme Court

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  3,118 Ratings  ·  412 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.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Anchor (first published September 18th 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Lisa B.
Oct 21, 2012 Lisa B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-books
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.
Dec 27, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, nonfiction, law
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
Sep 13, 2012 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: doubleday, 2012
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
Jan 22, 2013 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, nonfiction, politics
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
Jan 25, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
Jay Connor
Dec 18, 2012 Jay Connor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jan 13, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


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
Oct 08, 2012 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Sep 19, 2012 Book rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in public policy
Luring the opposition into committing a foul, isolating the opposition's strongest players, running out the clock — all are part of a winning strategy — employed in the decision process of the Supreme Court. They have always been a part of life inside the Beltway, but in today's polarized climate, these strategies have assumed new importance.

The initial legal assault on gun control laws did not emanate from the N.R.A., but from a libertarian think tank. Robert Levy, an attorney with the Institut
Feb 08, 2013 Pearl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 16, 2013 Darlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brian Willis
May 14, 2016 Brian Willis rated it it was amazing
I can't possibly recommend this book highly enough for any person interested in getting an inside glimpse of how the Roberts Court works. Toobin is the foremost expert on the Court, but this book's brilliant thesis, that the conservatives on this Court are actually the judicial activists and the liberals are the preservationists, is completely validated and substantiated by its journey from the appointment of Roberts to the decision on the Affordable Care Act.

We begin with the oath of office, so
Jan 19, 2013 Whitney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 09, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jan 08, 2015 Becca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its possible Jeffrey Toobin is quickly becoming my favorite legal-nerd author. Its hard to tell, this is still a new genre of reading for me. This is effectively a sequel to the fabulous book The Nine, which tells the story of the Supreme Court under Rehnquist. This book covers the Roberts era and runs it in parallel with Barack Obama, who is basically Roberts Harvard Law contemporary. I actually really enjoyed the Pres. Obama portions of the book discussing his legal philosophies -- for instanc ...more
Diane Dubay
Oct 06, 2012 Diane Dubay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bill P.
Nov 03, 2012 Bill P. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Parker F
Oct 06, 2012 Parker F rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 02, 2013 Noelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 19, 2013 JR rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike Smith
Nov 15, 2015 Mike Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing look into the current Supreme Court, "The Oath" offers a thorough understanding of both how the Court operates and how it has evolved over time. More academic than political, the book provides insight into the mind of the nine Justices, and offers an in-depth account of how some of the largest cases of recent years (Citizens United, Affordable Care Act upholding, etc.) were decided.

The book is well-written, never boring, and avoids being overly political in its analysis of the Court.
Jul 24, 2013 Erica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judicial
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
Randal White
This is a short excerpt of Toobin's book, "The Nine", which dealt with the Supreme Court. In particular, this excerpt is about the relationship between President Barack Obama and the Chief Justice John Roberts. Very short.
Jan 08, 2015 Alger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent in most regards, especially in Toobin's depth of knowledge on the justices and court, and his extremely readable prose. As a current history of the court, this volume is indispensible.

Where the book fails is in trying to connect the political realities of the Obama White House to the internal and external politics of the justices, which is the stated purpose of the book. The initial chapters make some effort to compare and contrast the lives of Obama and Roberts, and why two intelligen
Jun 02, 2014 Dina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-recently
Jeffrey Toobin’s book “The Oath” provides an account of the conflict between the Obama White House and the Supreme Court. It begins with an account of Roberts’s flubbed administration of the oath of office at President Obama’s inauguration and reading on it enhanced my understanding of the most recent rulings I previously only knew about via the mainstream media.

Mr. Toobin’s research was enlightening on many levels, and though my opinion was not changed, my understanding of a number of rulings
Nov 15, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nicole R
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
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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.” 3 likes
“As one justice explained, “The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.” 0 likes
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