Jeffrey Toobin reports on how the Roberts Court has recast the interpretation of the Constitution
The Obama White House and the Supreme Court
by Jeffrey Toobin
$28.95 List Price
At first glance, The Oath seems to be a curious title for Jeffrey Toobin’s battlefield account of the current state of constitutional combat in the United States. Toobin opens his book with Greg Craig, President Obama’s first White House counsel, spending his first full day in office fretting whether it really mattered that US Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts had slightly misstated the presidential oath of office at the inauguration the day before. To those who knew the oath—as Roberts manifestly did—something did sound wrong when he stumbled over the proper placement of the word “faithfully.” But was the glitch legally consequential? Could ingenious litigants later file a suit because the president had failed to recite the constitutionally prescribed oath correctly? That’s what Craig worried about, and eventually the chief justice returned to the White House that evening to do the oath one more time.
Yet the oath has a substance beyond legally qualifying a president for office. In the part that both Roberts and Obama got right, the president swears to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and then adds the extraconstitutional “So help me God” that has become part of the ritual. (I personally pray for the day when a president will have the chutzpah to leave the deity out of the occasion.) But what, exactly, is the Constitution that the president swears to preserve, protect, and defend—and that the justices, and other federal officials, similarly promise to “support and defend . . . against all enemies,” while professing
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