January 22, 2009

I Solemnly Swear to Faithfully…er…how’d it go? [NY Times, Obama, Chief Justice Roberts]

Update: He’s taken the Oath again, this time inside (photo above).

Last night on C-Span, I watched parts of FDR, JFK, Carter and Reagan Inaugural vows and speeches—and was struck by Reagan’s mis-put “So help you God,” where he just repeated the line, instead of saying “So help me God.” But today went well beyond that, as Obama and Roberts mangled the Presidential Oath, stumbling a few times.

But as I suspected when listening, the oath confusion (Obama, normally silver-tongued, made three starts on the Presidential Oath) was due in significant part to Chief Justice Roberts forgetting how it went. UPDATE: Roberts apologized to Obama, he did flub a few lines and Obama tried to let him get it right, kind of rolled with it]. A lot of pressure, in that moment! Excerpt:


January 20, 2009, 2:11 PM

I Do Solemnly Swear…(Line, Please?)


For a couple of smooth-talking constitutional experts, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and President-elect Barack Obama sure had a hard time getting through the constitutional oath of office.

There was, first of all, a false start from Mr. Obama, who started to respond before the chief justice had completed the first phrase. Mr. Obama ended up saying the first four words – “I, Barack Hussein Obama” – twice.

Then there was an awkward pause after Chief Justice Roberts prompted Mr. Obama with these words: “that Iwill execute the office of the president to the United States faithfully.” The chief justice seemed to say “to” rather than “of,” but that was not the main problem. The main problem was that the word “faithfully” had floated upstream in the constitutional text, which actually says this: “That I will faithfully execute the office of the president of the United States.”

Mr. Obama seemed to realize this, pausing quizzically after saying “that I will execute –”

The chief justice gave it another go, getting closer but still not quite right: “faithfully the office of president of the United States.” This time, he omitted the word “execute.”

Mr. Obama now repeated the chief justice’s initial error of putting “faithfully” at the end of the phrase. Starting where he had abruptly paused, he said: “the office of the president of the United States faithfully.”

It was smooth sailing from there. All of the words in the oath were uttered, along with “so help me God”…


For the rest, go to The New York Times’ article.


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