Publishers are billing Jeffrey Toobin's latest book as the chronicle of a showdown between the White House and the Supreme Court. In one corner, President Barack Obama. In the other, Chief Justice John Roberts.
In reality, though, Toobin's latest work, "The Oath," reads more like an update to his best-selling 2007 book, "The Nine." And there's nothing wrong with that.
In fact, much has happened in Washington and in the life of the court since then. Obama took over after eight years of President George W. Bush. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the court, replacing David Souter and John Paul Stevens. Big cases were decided, including Citizens United, the case that freed businesses from previous limits on political spending, and this year's blockbuster ruling upholding Obama's historic health care overhaul.
But readers expecting the book to detail constant clashes between the White House and the Supreme Court will be disappointed. Instead, Toobin focuses largely on the court, patiently guiding readers through recent history as if they're a fly on the wall of the court's inner chambers. And the anecdotes are fascinating.
Toobin describes a pre-inauguration meeting at the Supreme Court where eight of the court's nine justices (all but Justice Samuel Alito) gave Obama a tour. He tells readers that Sotomayor went against tradition and called Kagan to congratulate her on her nomination. And he notes that Kagan sometimes referred to herself as the "Frozen Yogurt Justice" after helping acquire a yogurt machine for the court's cafeteria.
To write the latest installment in the court's history, Toobin tells readers he interviewed justices and more than 40 of their law clerks. But Toobin isn't telling who said what. Still, readers can assume the information is pretty good.
Toobin, the senior legal analyst for CNN and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, is also a longtime friend of Kagan. They met at Harvard Law School in 1983 and were in the same study group.
In "The Oath," readers get introduced as a friend into that sphere. Anyone fascinated by the inner workings of the highest court in the land will be delighted.