Obama takes oath a second time

January 22, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Jan 22 – In a highly unusual move, President Barack Obama retook the oath of office on Wednesday after Chief Justice John Roberts led him into a stumble when he originally swore-in to become the 44th US president.

Obama retook the oath in the Map Room of the White House, watched by several close political aides, one day after his inauguration at the US Capitol.

"Are you ready to take the oath?" Roberts, wearing his black ceremonial robes, asked the president on Wednesday.

"I am, and we’re going to do it very slowly," Obama said, reciting the oath flawlessly and taking 25 seconds.

"We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the President was sworn in appropriately yesterday," said White House Counsel Greg Craig.

"But the oath appears in the Constitution itself. And out of an abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time."

Obama was first sworn in by Roberts on Tuesday, resting his left hand on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible and raising his right hand to deliver the words that formally made him the successor to former president George W. Bush.

But things didn’t go exactly as planned for the swearing-in of the country’s first African-American commander-in-chief.

Under the gaze of more than two million crowded onto Washington’s National Mall and millions more around the world, Obama said: "I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will execute the office of president of the United States faithfully, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.

"So help me God."

As specified in the US Constitution, the word "faithfully" precedes the phrase "execute the office," but the chief justice, in his first presidential inauguration, read that part of the oath incorrectly.

Obama paused, apparently realizing something was wrong, and after an awkward moment, Roberts repeated himself, but the chief justice stumbled again. Obama eventually recited the line as Roberts originally said it.

Two former presidents, Chester Arthur (1881-1885) and Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) are believed to have retaken the oath after stumbling over the wording the first time.

On Tuesday, Jeffrey Rosen, a US constitutional law expert and professor at George Washington University in Washington, said stumbling over the oath had "no impact. News flash: He’s president."

Rosen pointed to the 20th amendment of the US Constitution, which provides that the president and vice president’s term begins at noon on January 20.

"Lots of people have flubbed the oath, perhaps most memorably Chief Justice (William Howard) Taft, who sort of riffed and then made up his own" upon swearing in then-president Herbert Hoover, said Rosen.

Where the oath calls for the president to pledge to "preserve, protect, and defend" the constitution, Taft said "preserve, maintain and defend" – injecting an entirely new word, while Roberts merely got the order wrong.


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