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The Oath and the Office

A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents

Corey Brettschneider


List Price: 22.95*
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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (10/15/2018)
Paperback (8/6/2019)
Compact Disc (10/16/2018)
MP3 CD (10/16/2018)


An essential guide to the presidential powers and limits of the Constitution, for anyone voting—or running—for our highest office.

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

[A] pointed, cogent, and authoritative analysis of presidential policy and power. [Brettschneider] offers a clear explanation of many complex issues. . . including the question of whether obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense. A clear-eyed, accessible, and informative primer: vital reading for all Americans.
— Kirkus (starred review)

An accessible and lively guide to the president’s constitutional powers, 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

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.
— New York Times

Government of, by, and for the people only works when people understand how it works. Corey Brettschneider’s book does a remarkable job of unpacking the modern presidency with precision. A joy to read, a must to understand.
— Amy Gutmann, president, The University of Pennsylvania

An insightful and lively analysis of both the constitutional authority of the president of the United States and of the constitutional constraints imposed on that authority. This work is a critical reminder of the proper role of the chief executive in our nation’s system of constitutional government.
— Geoffrey Stone, author of Sex and the Constitution

In The Oath and the Office, Brettschneider explains both the powers of and the limitations on the chief executive, using an engaging and conversational style that any citizen (and hopefully any president) will easily understand. But even when one disagrees with Brettschneider’s advice, this book is an important manual for anyone who wants to be president—and most of all for We the People who are ultimately the president’s boss.

— Linda R. Monk, author of The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide

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.

— Paste

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

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393652123, 224pp.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

About the Author

Corey Brettschneider is professor of political science at Brown University, where he teaches constitutional law and politics, as well as visiting professor of law at Fordham Law School. His writing has appeared in TIME, Politico, and the New York Times.