SUPREME COURTSHIP by Christopher Buckley

Book Quote:

“What’s happening, Hayden?” the President said philosophically. “You can’t tell anymore what’s real and what isn’t. Everything’s all jumbled. The world has been reduced to a widescreen TV.”

Book Review:

Review by Doug Bruns (NOV 9, 2009)

I thought, as I closed this book, Well, that was fun! I mention this because I typically finish a book and think it was good, or so-so, or not so good. I can’t remember the last time I thought a book was simply fun. And the other thing, I laughed out loud. My dog looked up at me in wonderment.

Here’s the premise. First-term U.S. President Donald P. Vanderdamp, with approval poll numbers so low even George W. Bush looks good, is presented with an opportunity to put a Justice on the Supreme Court. He presents his nominee, but the nominee, highly qualified by any measure, is summarily shot down by the Judiciary Committee in an obvious display of partisanship. Enter nominee number two, another world-class jurist, also with a squeaky-clean slate. During the Committee review this candidate, Judge Conney, is asked to comment on a document held aloft by the Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Mitchell.

“‘Do you recognize this document?’

‘Not from this distance,’ Judge Conney replied, now thoroughly perplexed.

‘Let me refresh your memory,’ Senator Mitchell said.’”

The senator proceeds to read from an elementary school book report that the twelve-year-old Conney wrote about To Kill a Mockingbird. The young Conney had written that he found the book “boring in parts.” Several days later, Mitchell, with much fanfare, says that he cannot “in good conscience bring myself to vote for someone who might well show up at the Court on the first Monday of October wearing not black judicial robes but the white uniform of the Ku Klux Klan.” This because as a twelve-year old the jurist found To Kill a Mockingbird at times boring.

In a fit of pique, President Vanderdamp leaves for Camp David, where, while channel surfing he stumbles across TV’s most popular show, Courtroom Six, and its star, Judge Pepper Cartwright. She’s a spunky, plain-speaking, LadySmith revolver packing Texan, and beautiful to boot. Against his advisors counsel, Vanderdamp calls her himself and has her flown to Camp David where he tells her:

“I want to nominate you to the Supreme Court.”

“Pepper stared. ‘The Supreme Court of…what, sir?’

‘The United States.’”

A few pages later Judge Pepper confesses that she’s not sure what to do. The President admonishes her.

“‘Young lady,’ he said, ‘I come bearing a very considerable gift, not an offer of a lunch date.’

‘Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir. Didn’t mean to sound unappreciative. It’s just, I have this hard time deciding things.’

And with that we are off and running.

Judge Pepper, never one to back down from a fight, cruises through the committee hearings, is nominated to the court and begins her tenure. It is no small thing that her number one TV show is pitted against Congress’s 18 percent approval rating. But once on the bench things are not entirely smooth sailing and she finds herself at odds with her own sense of right and wrong. She votes, for instance, in favor of a robber-intruder who has brought suit against a gun maker for a misfiring pistol he used in an attempted hold up. Meanwhile, she is being sued by her own husband for breach of contract (he was her manager on Courtroom Six). Too, in an effort to help the “CJ,” the Chief Justice, who is depressed and suicidal, she becomes romantically involved with him. And so on goes the frolicking narrative until a supreme and historical case comes before the court.

In a riff on Bush v Gore, Buckley sets a stage where Vanderdamp does not want to run for a second term, but finally succumbs to the pressures of office and accepts his party’s nomination. Simultaneously, the states are ratifying a constitutional amendment to limit a President to only one term. This follows on the heels of Vanderdamp’s abysmal record, as it is used against him by political enemies. Ironically the public grows affectionate towards Vanderdamp and his plain spoken ways. His polls rise and he is elected to a second term; meanwhile, the political wheels continue to turn and the amendment is ratified. So the case, presented to the Supreme Court is simple: does the President get a second term, or is he trumped by the amendment. And of course, the Texas star must cast the deciding vote.

It is a special talent to be wickedly funny and bitingly smart. This book, reminiscent of Swift and a host of other great satirists, follows soundly in the tradition of showing us the folly of our ways, and, simultaneously, the difficulty of changing them. Buckley knows Washington. Not only did he grow up in the rarified air of the place, he was once a speech writer for George H. W. Bush. Supreme Courtship is a quick and hilarious read. But it is not only lampooning. It is also a serious critique, a moral appraisal of our National’s Capital and the egos that fill it. I strongly recommend it.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 71 readers
PUBLISHER: Twelve; 1 edition (September 7, 2009)
REVIEWER: Doug Bruns
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Christopher Buckley
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of Florence of Arabia


With John Tierney:

Serious novels:


Movies from books:

November 9, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Humorous, Satire, Washington, D.C.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.