Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama retakes oath of office

It was perhaps an effort to dispel the conspiracy theories, but Barack Obama has retaken the oath of office. The move to take the oath again came after he fluffed his lines after Chief Justice John Roberts delivered it incorrectly to him. During Tuesday’s inauguration Roberts mixed-up the words to the second clause (“That I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States”), missing out the word “faithfully” and putting it at the end. This confused Obama, who once taught Constitutional Law at Chicago Law School.

Obama technically became president a few minutes before he took his oath because the proceedings overran. Under Amendment 20 of the US Constitution, ratified in 1933, the term of the outgoing president ends at precisely noon on January 20. However, section 2 of the US Constitution states the oath must be read out as written. Thus came the dilemma.

Following the inauguration Barack Obama had also signed the declaration. But in an attempt to quash any criticism or conspiracy theories, the White House quickly organised another ceremony in the map room. Some conspiracy nuts may not be entirely placated as a picture showed the President taking the oath without the bible. However, Sky’s Tim Marshall described the whole affair as a bit “frothish” and said, “I don’t think it actually matters”. Greg Craig, the White House counsel, called the retaking of the oath an “abundance of caution” while another White House spokesman said it was a “precaution”. The President was a little more jovial about the whole affair. "We decided that because it was so much fun ...," Obama said jokingly to reporters. Earlier, Vice-President Joe Biden had made light of Chief Justice Robert’s misreading of the oath. “My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts, Chief Justice Roberts," Biden said as he asked for a copy of the oath to swear in senior members of the White House staff on Wednesday. The comment was met with laughs and groans from journalists present and President Obama seemed less than happy with the comment [CNN].

It is not the first time an incoming president has fluffed his lines at the inauguration ceremony. Herbert Hoover said “preserve, maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States” instead of “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. However, Hoover did not take the oath again. Both Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur retook their oaths. Arthur, who served from 1881 to 1885, was sworn in by the Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court at his home in a private ceremony following the assassination of former president James Garfield. Arthur was sworn in a second time by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court two days later at the Capitol.
In Coolidge's case, he took the oath of office at his father's Vermont home following the death of former president Warren Harding. Coolidge's father was a justice of the peace and administered the oath. Concerns about the jurisdiction of Coolidge's father led to Coolidge taking a second oath later in Washington.

Thus Obama stands as the third president to retake the oath of office [Sky News / BBC / CNN].

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