The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents
"A cleareyed, accessible, and informative primer: vital reading for all Americans." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Can the president launch a nuclear attack without congressional approval? Is it ever a crime to criticize the president? Can states legally resist a president’s executive order? In today’s fraught political climate, it often seems as if we must become constitutional law scholars just to understand the news from Washington, let alone make a responsible decision at the polls.
The Oath and the Office is the book we need, right now and into the future, whether we are voting for or running to become president of the United States. Constitutional law scholar and political science professor Corey Brettschneider guides us through the Constitution and explains the powers—and limits—that it places on the presidency. From the document itself and from American history’s most famous court cases, we learn why certain powers were granted to the presidency, how the Bill of Rights limits those powers, and what “we the people” can do to influence the nation’s highest public office—including, if need be, removing the person in it. In these brief yet deeply researched chapters, we meet founding fathers such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, as well as key figures from historic cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Korematsu v. United States.
Brettschneider breathes new life into the articles and amendments that we once read about in high school civics class, but that have real impact on our lives today. The Oath and the Office offers a compact, comprehensive tour of the Constitution, and empowers all readers, voters, and future presidents with the knowledge and confidence to read and understand one of our nation’s most important founding documents.
Praise for The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents
[The Oath and the Office] suggests a kind of optimism… that the Constitution embodies values, not just prohibitions and commands, and a constitutionally conscientious president has an affirmative duty to promote those values.
— New York Times Book Review
Essential reading for anyone who seeks to become president—or to hold in check those who do.
— David Cole, national legal director, ACLU, and author of Engines of Liberty
No office in American government is more studied than the presidency and no figure in American politics is more closely watched than the president. Brettschneider provides the judgment of a renowned constitutional scholar, dramatic cases, historical sweep, a gift for clarity, and a sense of moral urgency. This is a foothold from which we can survey the dangerous course the presidency has taken and our responsibility as citizens to defend the constitution.
— Nancy Rosenblum, Senator Joseph Clark Research Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government, Harvard University
Those who one day may find themselves behind the Big Desk in the Oval Office need to understand the limits of their power as well as its potential. Brettschneider’s cogent and comprehensive user’s manual–grounded in sophisticated legal and political analysis—is exactly the right place to start.
— Gordon Silverstein, Assistant Dean, Yale Law School
'When the President does it, that means it is not illegal.' So said Richard Nixon. What then are the limits on Presidential action? Can the President of the United States pardon himself, fire anyone in the Executive Branch, or wage war without Congressional approval? Can California develop a foreign policy on immigration and sign international climate treaties? In an era of rising executive power, Corey Brettschneider provides an essential guide for citizens and aspiring office holders on the powers of the President and how the U.S. Constitution constrains that power.
— Rob Reich, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University