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 I will 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” at the end.
People will argue about what the failure to utter the words in the precise order required by the Constitution means. But it will be an academic argument. It is not clear who would have standing to raise the argument that Mr. Obama had not become president as a consequence, and it is hard to believe that any court – or other body – would want to adjudicate the question.
There is, in any event, no rule against a do-over. When questions were raised about whether Calvin Coolidge should have been sworn in by his father, a notary public, he took the oath again, this time from a Supreme Court justice.Short URL:
I Do Solemnly Swear…(Line, Please?)
Posted on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 @ 21:07:25 EST in Soetoro