Chief Justice Roberts Messes Up Presidential Oath Of Office

By Doug Mataconis | Related entries in Barack, History

Chief Justice Roberts made a pretty big mistake when he was administering the oath to Barack Obama today:

WASHINGTON – Chief Justice John Roberts swore in President-elect Barack Obama as president of the United States on Tuesday with a slight stumble over the wording of the oath of office in the first of what could be many important interactions between two men who rose to their positions of power quickly and who have some background similarities, but whose politics differ.

Separated by a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural, Roberts asked Obama: “Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?”

The former Illinois senator indicated he was, and Roberts started reciting — and Obama repeating — the 35-word oath that is prescribed by the Constitution.

But at one point, Obama paused abruptly after Roberts reversed several words in the oath.

The oath includes the phrase “that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States” but Roberts didn’t say “faithfully” until after saying “president of the United States.”

Obama apparently realized that something was out of order.

With Obama not reciting, Roberts then repeated the phrase correctly, the brief awkward moment ended and Obama was back on track.

He was then the first to congratulate Obama on his new job.

Here’s a transcript of the whole awkward affair:

ROBERTS: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?
OBAMA: I am.
ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama…
OBAMA: I, Barack…
ROBERTS: … do solemnly swear…
OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…
ROBERTS: … that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully…
OBAMA: … that I will execute…
ROBERTS: … faithfully the office of president of the United States…
OBAMA: … the office of president of the United States faithfully…
ROBERTS: … and will to the best of my ability…
OBAMA: … and will to the best of my ability…
ROBERTS: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
OBAMA: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
ROBERTS: So help you God?
OBAMA: So help me God.
ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

And, here’s the video:

From the transcript and the video make it clear that it was Roberts who made the mistake first. When I watched it live, you could see Obama pause for a second after he says “that I will execute” and look at Roberts as if to give him a chance to fix the error, which only served to confuse things even more.

Or perhaps Obama tripped Roberts up at the very beginning by anticipating a pause that previous Chief Justices have taken, but which never came.

In either case, I would’ve thought they might have at least talked about how the oath was going to do down before hand, wouldn’t you ?

Cross-Posted at Below The Beltway


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 and is filed under Barack, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 Responses to “Chief Justice Roberts Messes Up Presidential Oath Of Office”

  1. gerryf Says:

    Not to take too big a dig atch’ Doug, but this is perhaps the biggest non-issue I’ve heard/read/seen today. This is Robert’s first administration of the oath of office. Give the man a break.

    I know the talking heads on CNN were making a big deal out of it, but they were also making a big deal out of Michelle Obama’s dress, the freaking lunch menu, and the the Bush sendoff in the helicopter.

    The problem with the 24-hour news cycle is that people feel compelled to fill it.

  2. david donar Says:

    Roberts is only human. Any time you have to recite something or make vows in front of billions, you are apt to be nervous. That said, maybe they should have done a rehearsal. Anyways, it was a minor in terms of the great day and volume of people that had to be managed.

  3. Paul Hinton Says:

    This was Mr. Roberts doing. Hard to see how it was a mistake. The oath, as instructed by all chief justices to presidents taking the oath in the past, and as contained in Article II of the Constitution, recites as …that I will faithfully execute… and not …United States faithfully…

    Possibly Mr. Roberts wanted to trip up the President at this momentous occasion. President Obama obviously knew the right order, but felt he should follow the lead of Mr. Roberts. Shame on Mr. Roberts.

    As to the first line, Mr. Roberts definitely stopped speaking until President Obama was in the middle of repeating the instructed phrase. Shame on Mr. Roberts again.

  4. Jay St. Diego Says:

    One could make the case the Barack Obama technically is not the president of the United States due to the fact that he did not recite the oath as prescribed by the constitution. I can hear the conspiracy theorists now.

  5. Loralyn Hogue Says:

    I am so proud to be an American today. In honor of those dreamers who came at an earlier time in our history78, I am wearing one of my dad’s WWII pins. You can bet that when he was fighting in North Africa and Italy that he was not thinking about stumbling words, but rather the meaning behind our American phrases of freedom, and how our actions convey to the world. Starting today, let us as Americans be a nation full of grace.

  6. Bill Says:

    I am happy to learn that the president knows the oath. That’s why he stopped for some seconds. The (controversial) Chief justice should see his mistake as a great opportunity to read the constitution again, also in respect to other topics (such as Guantanamo or torture).

  7. dan Says:

    One could make the case the Barack Obama technically is not the president of the United States due to the fact that he did not recite the oath as prescribed by the constitution. I can hear the conspiracy theorists now.

    no, one couldn’t. he became president, officially, whilst yo-yo ma was rockin’ out on the cello, at precisely noon. the oath is simply a technicality.

  8. Frank Says:

    Wow, I really don’t know how you mess that one up. Was it on purpose? Either way though I’m extremely proud of our country as well. Moving away from a capitalistic society and transitioning into a new socialistic idea! I can’t wait.

  9. gerryf Says:

    he was ribbing the conspiracy theorists….fortunately, they still have the Obama wasn’t born in the US nonsense to cling to…

  10. David Says:

    One could make the case the Barack Obama technically is not the president of the United States due to the fact that he did not recite the oath as prescribed by the constitution. I can hear the conspiracy theorists now.

    No you couldn’t. With or without the oath of office the president-elect (Obama) officially becomes president at noon on January 20th as according to the Constitution. Obama had taken the oath of office around 12:10pm. He had officially been president for those 10 minutes prior to reciting the oath. Perhaps people should have paid attention in govenment when they were in high school.

  11. Obama '12 Says:

    It’s a real sign of the insanity of the 24 hour cable news cycle when silly little things like this are made into a big deal. When mistakes like this were made in 1864 (and they were) nobody ever even knew about them.

  12. Jimmy R. Everly Says:

    In all fairness, Obama was the first to mess up the oath, given that the first line is “I *president’s name* do solemnly swear”, not “I *president’s name*”. Obama jumped the gun on the second part. This isn’t a big deal. It’s a huge event, mistakes will happen (I’m sure he was more than nervous).

    It’s ridiculous to think that Roberts purposely messed it up to make Obama mess up. Obama made a mistake, and it’s okay to overlook that, but it Roberts makes a mistake, he’s trying to undermine the president? Ridiculous.

  13. David L Nance Says:

    It is only an example of the incompetent people bush has appointed.

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