Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Flubbed oath

"I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear 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 not so hard, is it? So how is it that two Harvard Law School graduates, heads of the judicial and executive branches of the United States government, managed to bungle through the most important moment of the day's $150-million inaugural ceremonies?

An inauguration is like a wedding: It's a success if nothing unexpected happens. It may be just a formality, but Barack Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts fumbling through the presidential oath of office was an awkward vibe for the hundreds of thousands in attendance and the millions watching around the world.

Perhaps I'm the only one that noticed, but the first error came even before the oath taking began. Roberts said "Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?". Obama actually resigned from the Senate on November 16.

Then for the oath itself. First Obama jumped the gun in repeating the oath, stepping over Roberts words halfway through the opening line. This seems to have thrown Roberts off his stride, and he then proceeded to replace the phrase "President of the United States" with "President to the United States", and misplaced the word "faithfully" in the text of the oath.

Obama recognized the mistake and abruptly stopped midway through repeating the line. Then, like my French teacher at an oral exam, he gave a beckoning nod and a pregnant pause, which prodded Roberts to nervously stammer through repeating the line properly. Which was pointless, because Obama repeated the line with the misplaced "faithfully" anyway.

It doesn't stop there. Obama's inaugural address opened by saying "44 Americans have now taken the presidential oath", which is not entirely accurate. Though Obama is counted as the 44th president, Grover Cleveland served as president for two non-consecutive terms and is counted as both the 22nd and 24th president.

But by then I was hardly listening, still flabbergasted that the simplest and most important part of the day's painstakingly choreographed ceremony was garbled by both of the two people involved.


  1. Oh, believe me, Mike, the fumble was played over and over and over again in the news this morning and dissected in painstaking detail.

    One thing about the "Mr. Senator": My sense is that it is customary for people to be addressed by the highest title they attained in their lives. So, for example, my dad was an Ambassador from 1990 to 1993. To this day people still address him as "Mr. Ambassador." It makes me roll my eyes but my sense is that that's the way things are.

  2. The far right wing is gonna make a big deal out of this for no reason just because they can't accept Obama.

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