CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin speaks to campus

By Sarah O’Connor

Jeffrey Toobin, senior legal analyst at CNN and staff writer at The New Yorker, was on campus on Wednesday to talk about his most recent book, The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court. The bestselling author spoke to a crowd of students, faculty and community members in Weyerhaeuser Chapel. Toobin answered questions from the audience members—including from President Brian Rosenberg—about his new book, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the new federal healthcare legislation, gay rights and immigration. Toobin’s book presents what Rosenberg called a “counterintuitive thesis” of constitutional interpretation that argues that Chief Justice John Roberts is a radical figure, while President Obama is the conservative. He explained that Obama does not tend to use the courts to advance his agenda so Obama tends not to use the courts to advance his agenda so much as the political process, which is actually a more con­servative position. The tension between liberals and conservatives was a major theme of the talk. He discussed the emergence of a conservative legal agenda, but stressed the difference be­tween ideological difference and ethical breach. He cautioned that the term “judicial activism”—as opposed to judicial re­straint—does not define content because both liberals and conservatives can engage in it. “Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and his conservative fellow-Justices, like their ideological kinsmen in the nine­teen-thirties are engaging in what’s known as judicial activ­ism,” Toobin describes in his book. “Roberts and his allies, like the conservatives of seventy years ago, profess to believe in judicial restraint (the opposite of activism) and respect for precedent, but their actions belie their supposed values.” President Rosenberg, in his introductory remarks, jok­ingly referred to Toobin as the man responsible for “getting completely wrong” the Supreme Court’s ruling on the health­care law last summer. Toobin had originally projected that the Supreme Court would strike down the law after sitting in on hearings for the case. “I think that the student turnout was disappointing given the relevance of the lecture and many student’s exposure to Jeffrey Toobin’s books,” said Isabella Kulkarni ‘13. “The Q and A format would have lent itself well to students engaging with the subject.” The chapel was barely half-full for the event, which follows the trend of low student attendance at on-campus political events this semester. This was in sharp contrast to Toobin’s previous visits to Macalester, which were previ­ously well-attended. refresh –>