"I don't think there is anyone in the academy these days capable of more patient and attentive reading of the constitutional text than Akhil Amar."--Jeremy Waldron, New York Review of Books
When the stories that lead our daily news involve momentous constitutional questions, present-minded journalists and busy citizens cannot always see the stakes clearly. In The Constitution Today, Akhil Reed Amar, America's preeminent constitutional scholar, considers the biggest and most bitterly contested debates of the last two decades--from gun control to gay marriage, affirmative action to criminal procedure, presidential dynasties to congressional dysfunction, Bill Clinton's impeachment to Obamacare. He shows how the Constitution's text, history, and structure are a crucial repository of collective wisdom, providing specific rules and grand themes relevant to every organ of the American body politic.
Leading readers through the constitutional questions at stake in each episode while outlining his abiding views regarding the direction constitutional law must go, Amar offers an essential guide for anyone seeking to understand America's Constitution and its relevance today.
Yale law professor Amar (The Law of the Land), a frequent New York Times contributor, would seem the perfect choice to provide an accessible and engrossing look at current constitutional issues. Unfortunately, that's not what this volume is. Instead of providing concise, original examinations of legal and cultural conflicts, Amar reprints dozens of previously written essays, including ones that are far from timely; for example, one advocates that the U.S. Supreme Court change its policies to allow note taking by the audience at oral arguments, and easy access to transcripts of those arguments a change that has since been made. Dated references, such as to a possible Romney/Christie slate in 2012, are a distraction that updated, reworked entries would have avoided. These aren't the only flaws some points (suggesting that Hillary Clinton might win the presidency "in part based on her strong support" of Supreme Court judicial candidate Merrick Garland) are, at best, a logical stretch, and Amar veers too close to self-congratulation in his speculations about the influence of some of his writings. This is a missed opportunity that the knowledgeable and insightful Amar could still realize in a future book.