Supreme Conflict Book Review

Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States

The use of American judicial power has shifted in recent decades. Greenburg’s book Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court narrates about significant historical events and landmarks of the U.S. Supreme Court since its inception. The author documents conservative efforts to shift the direction of this important institution, and provides detailed account of court’s professional activity, the influence of presidents on its functioning, dynamics within the organization, and the way ideology and eminent personalities affect the established debates and unions. The reaction and interaction of justices have largely determined the struggle for control over the important institution, which is the Supreme Court. The ardent fight has begun in the middle of the twentieth century and continues nowadays. Moreover, it is accompanied by attempts to solve the most burning social problems; while liberals consider this task to be crucial for the Supreme Court, conservatives are less optimistic in their views and see the use of arrogant and abusive power in these attempts.

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The Momentous Political Watershed in the U.S. History

Greenburg’s book Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court highlights the dynamic activity within the high court and significant influence of ideology and personalities on disputes and alliances within this institution. Since the 1950s, civil rights activists and other concerned parties have turned to the courts seeking to protect their fundamental rights. In the middle of the twentieth century, the minorities were struggling against the tyranny, prejudice, and discrimination. The courts responded to this challenge by trying to resolve the most burning socio-economic problems of that time. Controversies and battles surrounding the momentous watersheds in the U.S. history continue. In recent years, the core issues of debates include Supreme Court’s direction and composition, as well as influence of policymakers and parties on the functioning of institution.

Unlike other authors, the eminent journalist Greenburg examines the Supreme Court from the perspective of political ideas, gamesmanship, and personalities engaged in the justice system. The expert used a variety of reportorial resources to represent a vivid struggle for high court and power, and influence of ideological and political forces on the critical institution. Greenburg gives the adequate explanation of legal terms throughout the text without breaking the narrative continuity. The author pays particular attention to the consequences of plural opinions, which substitute unanimous points of view, and effects of making decisions that have no precedent-setting values.


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Interaction between Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats and their Influence on Supreme Court Decision-Making

Greenburg highlights the activity of the Rehnquist Court in the period between 1986 and 2005. Seven Republican nominees deeply disappointed the conservatives, who hoped to repeal progressive rulings on burning social issues. Greenburg is the first author, who reveals the real cause of failure of Republican nominees, the event that the U.S. conservative movement has perceived with rage, disappointment, and frustration. They decided not to waste future opportunities and move forward. During Bush’s tenure, prerequisites for the conservative counterrevolution have appeared. The eminent journalist offers fresh perspectives on the Supreme Court’s activity. However, she does not forget to remind the readers about the nominations of Souter and Kennedy during the conservative era and the success, which the appointments of Alito and Roberts have brought to the U.S. justice system. The account also updates the readers about the illness of Chief Justice Rehnquist, reveals the truth behind the unfavorable nomination of Harriet Miers and its consequences. Particular attention is paid to the battles that have led the conservatives to the triumph after the appointment of the party’s leading judicial representatives. In addition to conflicts, controversies, and debates, Greenburg emphasizes the opposing ideological agendas and high stakes in the political and judicial struggle.

Eminent Personalities and Different Styles of Justices

In her book, Greenburg talks about a massive campaign aimed at moving the high court in a different direction. Involved parties sought to limit and restrict the role of the Supreme Court in the U.S. Comprehensive and penetrating analysis, storytelling full of reports and facts, deep and penetrating investigation distinguishes Greenburg’s book from others and engages the readers in the long and capturing journey through the U.S. judicial system. It also reflects the consequential shift in the use of judicial power in the country.

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Despite the fact that justices presented in the book have different styles, office appearance and legal philosophies, they continue to interact with each other. However, when a new justice comes to the court, the institution becomes completely new (Greenburg, 2007). Group dynamics profoundly affect the high court as an important federal institution. When Bush and his administration received an opportunity to move the court to the right, lawyers started searching for a good nominee that would be a congenial, collegial, and conservative man or woman able to persuade and defend important cases. The major theme covered by Greenburg is the Republicans’ 40-year-long campaign aimed at moving the Supreme Court to the right. However, these attempts were not always successful. The nomination of Justice Starr by George Bush ended when the Attorney General Thornburgh convinced the president not to do it. Bush changed his mind after Thornburgh threatened to resign and nominated Hampshire judge Souter to take his post (Greenburg, 2007). He was not experienced in big social issues solved by high court, and moved towards the left after gaining experience at the Supreme Court. Greenburg pays particular attention to the details, including nomination process, issues raised by different parties, and the impact of every politician and judge on the Supreme Court functioning.

Political Nature of Nomination Process and Constitutional Topics

The author emphasizes the political nature of nomination process, and dissatisfaction caused by the appointment of Harriet Miers. Far-right parties and the Democrats severely criticized this nomination. Bush was aware that Miers would not change her vision on the pressing issues after the appointment. Alberto Gonzalez was the only person, who questioned her nomination as he sought to hold a post. Conservatives believed that Gonzalez was effectively killing Souter’s chances. He predicted conservatives going crazy over this appointment. Greenburg mentions that the Democratic Party was ready to wage war. However, they preferred to remain calm while the nomination was floundering on its own.

From the previous appointments, the American congressional representatives expected candidates to discuss widely complex social and judicial topics. After communicating with Miers, even the president’s adherents negatively reacted to her nomination. Numerous controversies were circulating around the White House at that time (Greeburg, 2007). When President George Bush nominated Alito, the conservatives welcomed his decision, while liberals severely criticized it. Miers, who initially had doubts about Roberts’s conservatism, supported Alito. Moreover, Bush and the lawyer liked his qualities. Democrats sought to fight Alito because of his conservative position. However, in the course of time, he demonstrated effectiveness in testimony, and Democrats were forced to accept him. Conservatives hoped to succeed with raising such issues as school desegregation and abortion before the high court. At that time, the institution sought to book review the race and abortion problems in a more conservative manner. The portrayal of ever-changing court dynamics started with the arrival of politically unskilled Thomas, who unexpectedly shifted the power balance in the high court to the left (Greenburg, 2007). From the very beginning, he acted independently and was distinguished from others by the forcefulness of his views.

Bush Administration and Ongoing Struggle for Control

Greenburg’s detailed narrative about the notable nominations is often used in the books and reports that discuss landmarks and relevant events during Bush administration. However, her account is distinguishable due to the details and author’s unique perspective. At that time, loyalty was more valued than expertise; not all parties could make their views heard, since some of them were poorly prepared. Conservatives organized protests due to the appointment of Miers, her lack of professionalism and skillfulness in decision-making process and confirmation hearings. The decision on unsigned majority opinion undertaken by the Supreme Court concerning Bush presidency was made under intense pressure.


To conclude, Greenburg’s comprehensive account covers issues surrounding the Supreme Court and impact of politicians and other concerned parties on its decision-making process. The famous journalist is among the first, who has unlocked the door to the secret institution and specifics of its work. While writing the book, the author heavily relied on personal interviews with justices, experts, specialists, and insiders. Such approach has led to the creation of a rich account dedicated to the emergence of the modern conservative court. She has paid particular attention to such figures as Alito and Roberts, who received the presidential appointment. The nomination of first Mexican-American Gonzalez to the court was unsuccessful as conservatives prevented this plan. Greenburg predicted the appointment of Alito and Roberts because of their distinctive styles in building alliances and working for the wide majority. On the contrary, Bork and Scalia adhered to the bold and caustic styles in their professional activity. Greenburg expressed her authoritative view that Bush administration shaped the modern Supreme Court. Therefore, the balanced and instructive account Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court significantly contributes to the historical record of significant events in the history of the United States.


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