Brettschneider’s book is written as a fireside chat between expert and executive, positioning the reader in the second person as the president and offering scenarios lifted and tweaked from the headlines to illustrate the interactions between the president and the Constitution. Truly, it’s between the president and the people. Broadly broken down into the president’s powers, the powers of the citizenry and the checks America’s people, judges and lawmakers can utilize to ensure said powers remain in balance, The Oath and The Office highlights the egalitarian power possible in a charitable, intelligent reading of the Constitution. It also reveals how far afield the current president is from those interpretations ... When at the very pinnacles of government the respect required of all parties to operate in a republic is flagrantly disregarded, it’s the job of the people and the Constitution to ensure such disrespect is punished. The Oath and The Office makes it clear that we are close to a reckoning.
Brettschneider’s book, addressed to a presidential aspirant, begins with the question “What do you need to know to be president?” The answer: 'Most of all, you need to know the U.S. Constitution.' This framing is one of the book’s great virtues: It moves the focus away from the too-common and too-narrow question of what the courts might force a president to do in the name of the Constitution to the more capacious question of how a president herself should understand her constitutional role ... Brettschneider, a professor of political science at Brown University, criticizes Republicans’ late-20th-century 'Southern strategy' as inconsistent with American constitutional values, rather than recognizing the messier and sadder truth that it was a choice to embrace one grand constitutional narrative, that of white supremacism, over another, more egalitarian one. But Brettschneider’s Whiggery also comes out in myriad smaller ways ... This sanding down of our constitutional tradition until it is smooth facilitates the book’s optimism. Brettschneider’s insistence on a coherent, unified constitutional narrative allows him to claim that the liberal values he favors are dictated by the Constitution itself ... But if, instead, those are only some of the values in our constitutional tradition—if, indeed, they are in deep tension with other, equally embedded values—then we have to turn somewhere other than to the Constitution for guidance ... The Constitution alone won’t save us.
The author offers a clear explanation of many complex issues, such as the provisions of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law; and the process involved in impeachment, including the question of whether obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense. A cleareyed, accessible, and informative primer: vital reading for all Americans.