Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Mr. Roberts Goes To The White House."... Or, "Oops! I Did It Again."

(Doug Mills/The New York Times)

The Presidential Oath as written in the U.S. Constitution:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

That's it. Period. Concise and To The Point.

Oh Yeah... There's No "... So Help Me God." at the end... It's that Supremely Important Notion of Separation of Church and State and All, I Think.

But when Supreme Court Chief Justice and Constitutional Scholar John Roberts swore in Obama, he flipped some of the words, saying: "I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully."

I'm sure it was just nerves... Yeah, that's it. The Chief Justice just gets butterflies from public speaking.

Or, perhaps... inexperience? After all, he's the youngest ever Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

I'm sure it had nothing to do with the little issue of now-President Obama having been one of 22 Senate Democrats who voted against Mr. Roberts' confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2005 — Making this not only the First Time a Supreme Court Justice has sworn in a President who voted against him... But, it's also the First Time said Supreme Court Justice has had to do it TWICE.



Obama Takes Oath Again, Faithfully This Time

A day after he and Chief John Roberts stumbled over the words, Obama decides to do it over to remove any doubt about the legitimacy of his presidency.
By David G. Savage
7:43 PM PST, January 21, 2009

Washington, D.C. - President Obama took the oath of office Tuesday outside the Capitol, as millions watched in person and on TV. He took it again Wednesday night -- this time in the privacy of the White House, with only a few aides and reporters looking on.

The reason: During the inauguration ceremony, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stumbled over the oath's opening words, and Obama repeated them back, incorrectly.

The second time around, they both got it right.

The president's lawyer and constitutional experts agreed that taking the oath a second time was unnecessary. Under the Constitution, Obama became president at noon Tuesday, a few minutes before he placed his hand on a Bible to take the oath.

"We believe the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday," White House counsel Greg Craig said in a statement. "But the oath appears in the Constitution itself. And out of abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time."

Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar said, "It puts to rest all the doubts. . . . We lawyers are cautious folks."

As for Obama, he joked that he and his staff decided to repeat the ceremony because "we decided it was so much fun."

Yet it was clear that the administration, having been dogged by false Internet rumors about Obama's citizenship during the presidential campaign, wanted to take no chances about the legitimacy of his presidency.

During Tuesday's ceremony, Roberts misplaced the word "faithfully" when he was reading the oath of office, and Obama repeated the mistake.

The Constitution says the president must solemnly swear "that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States." But on Tuesday, Obama said, "I will execute the office of president of the United States faithfully. . . ."

On Wednesday, there were no such gaffes. Obama raised his right hand in the White House Map Room about 7:35 p.m. -- there was no Bible -- and repeated Roberts' words to the letter.

"Congratulations, again," the chief justice said, smiling.

"Thank you, sir," Obama replied.

Amar noted that at least two presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Chester A. Arthur, took the oath a second time after questions were raised. In Coolidge's case, his father was a justice of the peace and administered the oath to his son upon the death of President Harding.

"Coolidge retook the oath in a secret ceremony," Amar said. "He didn't want his father to know about it."

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, said the do-over "was just a matter of caution and compliance with the text."

"But I don't think it mattered. No one would have standing to sue. Obama would still be president. But this would stop people from asking whether or he was legitimately president."

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