Most U.S. citizens of the 21st century take for granted that the Supreme Court will decide the most divisive issues of our day - but this is not what the Constitution's framers had in mind when they wrote that document. The author's argument is that the Court has become too partisan and has misused it power to overturn state and national legislation. Narrator Norman Dietz has a deep, assured voice that lends authority and gravitas to the work. His tone and pacing make it easy to follow the constitutional arguments, and he pauses at crucial intervals to allow listeners to consider Burns's ideas. At times, he sounds like a professor at the lectern, but he's an interesting professor who demands our attention.
Much as we would like to believe that the Court remains aloof from ideological politics, Packing the Court reveals how often justices behave like politicians in robes. Few Americans appreciate that the framers of the Constitution envisioned a much more limited role for the Supreme Court than it has come to occupy. In keeping with the founders' desire for balanced government, the Constitution does not grant the Supreme Court the power of judicial review---that is, the ability to veto acts of Congress and the president. Yet throughout its history, as Packing the Court details, the Supreme Court has blocked congressional laws and, as a result, often derailed progressive reform. The term packing the court is usually applied to FDR's failed attempt to expand the size of the Court after a conservative bench repeatedly overturned key elements of the New Deal. But Burns shows that FDR was not the only president to confront a high court that seemed bent on fighting popular mandates for change, nor was he the only one to try to manipulate the bench for political ends. Many of our most effective leaders---from Jefferson to Jackson, Lincoln to FDR---have clashed with powerful justices who refused to recognize the claims of popularly elected majorities.
©2009 James MacGregor Burns; (P)2009 Tantor
Burns' book is well researched and full of good information. However, it is tainted by an extremist perspective that essentially advocates for the emasculation of the Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution. It leaves out much. I wouldn't recommend for those who have not read other current works on the Constitution and the Constitutional Convention. Burns advocates that the Supreme Court is a power that works against the radical reengineering of the United States government. His extreme and offensive perspective convinced me that we need these voices from the bench. I'll vote against Burns' views any day.
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