Indeed, Amar decries today’s bipolar political culture, declaring, “Too often, each side shouts past the other, and both sides overlook various ways in which the text itself, when properly approached, invites recourse to certain nontextual — unwritten — principles.”
This book is constructed like a towering Jenga game. It presents constitutional brain twisters such as: Could a president be arrested while traveling in a state hostile to his policies and thrown in jail for alleged criminal conduct, even though this might cripple the nation? The Constitution tells us nothing about whether presidents can be indicted or incarcerated while in office. (The answer is: probably not. You’ll have to read the book to see why.)
The book includes surprise discoveries such as that the version of the Constitution most often used in schools and courts — hand-signed by the framers — is not the “official” version of the document as ratified and printed on Sept. 28, 1787. Some words and punctuation do not even match. As Amar quips, so much for “hardcore” textualism.