January 21st, 2009
07:57 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama re-takes oath of office at the White House

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama on Wednesday re-took his oath of office after Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed while delivering it at Tuesday's inauguration.

As he did Tuesday, Roberts asked the president if he was ready to take the oath, this time in the White House Map Room instead of the Capitol steps.

"I am," Obama replied, "and we're going to take it very slowly."

The 35-word oath took 25 seconds. The bobbled oath on Tuesday took 30 seconds.

The move was aimed at dispelling any confusion that might arise from Tuesday's take, and erase any question that Obama is legally the president.

"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 in a statement. "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, waiting on a couch for the ceremony to begin, joked that "we decided it was so much fun ... "

After a flawless recitation, Roberts smiled and said, "Congratulations again."

"Thank you, sir," the president replied, and then, after a smattering of applause, quipped that "the bad news for the (press) pool is there's 12 more balls."

Roberts made no comment on becoming tongue-tied Tuesday, but it set tongues wagging.

The oath, as most oaths are, is administered by the one administering it breaking it into phrases that are repeated by the official being sworn in.

Roberts, apparently working without a copy of the oath handy, started out by reciting a six-word phrase, but Obama broke in halfway through and repeated the first three.

That seemed to throw the chief justice off stride, and he proceeded to mix up the order of the words in the next phrase.

The Constitution sets out the language that should be used in the oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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."

Roberts moved the word "faithfully" back nine spots, and used "to" instead of "of." That threw the president off base, and he smiled and paused to collect his thoughts, then decided to follow Roberts' lead.

But the chief justice at the same time attempted to correct himself.

Here's how it went:

Roberts: ... that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully ...

Obama: ... that I will execute ...

Roberts: ... the off - faithfully the pres - the office of president of the United States ...

Obama (at the same time): ... the office of president of the United States faithfully ...

The two got the rest correct, including the non-obligatory "So help you God?" "So help me God."

Reporters, bloggers, and others weighed in. The New York Post offered this headline: "Roberts is the Oaf of Office."

A Washington Post reader complained in a letter to the editor, "What could have been a moment for the ages was marred by Mr. Roberts' thoughtlessness. News outlets will report that the first words of our new president were "confused." Whether through design or an amazing lack of preparation, Justice Roberts's behavior was a disgrace."

And Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said, "We're wondering here whether or not Barack Obama in fact is the president of the United States. They had a kind of garbled oath. It's just conceivable that this will end up going to the courts."

The always-playful legal Web site Above the Law asked readers to answer an online poll. About 48 percent blamed Roberts, just 17 percent blame Obama, and 35 percent said yes to the statement, "They both sucked."

In a congressional luncheon after the swear-in Roberts and Obama exchanged words, and the chief justice appeared to tell the president, "It was my fault."

Mistakes do happen, even in the most meticulously prepared of events.

During the 1941 swear-in, nerves apparently got to then-Supreme Court clerk Elmore Leonard who held the Bible for President Franklin Roosevelt (wives of the president did not have that honor as they do now). After Roosevelt completed the oath, Leonard dropped the book.

No hard feelings were expressed by the president. In fact, when Vice President Joseph Biden joked about the Roberts mix-up at a Wednesday swear-in of White House officials, Obama refused to smile or laugh as others did. His stern expression betrayed his lack of amusement at Roberts' expense.

Take heart, Mr. Chief Justice. You may have many more inaugurals in the future to get it right.

- CNN Supreme Court producer Bill Mears contributed to this report.

(updated 8:30 pm with additional information)

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    I think that Justice Roberts done that on purpose. Only God knows. To me, it was a little suspicious. However ,Obama is still the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    January 21, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  2. David Schutt

    While I find it appalling that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America could not remember this fairly simplistic oath, that clearly Obama had down, I do believe at the same time that too much attention has been placed on this trivial matter. It can just be something that helps us remember the occasion better. Makes us smile a little bit.

    January 21, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  3. Ken in NC

    Good move. Now does this mean that all the work and orders he has done and issued has to be redone?

    January 21, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  4. obama's servant

    Who is to blame for the mixup??

    January 21, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  5. alvino

    Without the correct order of words in the oath, I am sure the naysayers would 'faithfully' say Obama is not the president.

    January 21, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  6. Robert in New Mexico

    I'm not a fan or Justice Roberts BUT i do feel everyone has gone too far with the simple error.

    January 21, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  7. No Hillary = No Obama

    I always thought Obama's rise was a goof. So it is keeping with this goofy Presidency that the oath is goofed. Another omen. The "Reflection Pond" was frozen over yesterday, but the sun was shining. I remember when Bush got sworn in, it rained on his parade. That was an omen for all the grief he has brought into lives around the world. If Obama doesn't shake off his narcissim, his Presidency will be frozen in self-reflection.

    January 21, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  8. Loren

    Does it really matter. He isn't even a citizen of this country, and he was allowed to run for president anyway.

    January 21, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  9. jp,michigan

    The first time it looked like neither men knew what they were doing.

    January 21, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  10. Tim

    Looks like Biden's jabbing got to him!

    January 21, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  11. Carl A. Seaward

    Obama was right to vote against chief justice Roberts because as he just showed he is unable to even administer the oath of office as written in the Constitution.

    January 21, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  12. A. Christian

    Yes, the oath is written into the Constitution. It does not end with the phrase "so help me God". It is fine if the President wishes to add that phrase after taking the oath, but it was inappropriate for the Chief Justice to make it part of the oath.

    January 21, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  13. vicky

    Bush clones like Roberts who wanna politicise the supreme court should follow the Bushes!!

    January 21, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  14. Rhonie

    It dosen't matter if he says it a thousand times, He is still a lier. I hope they impeach the big stiking islamic pig.

    January 21, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  15. Bald Ex-Soldier

    Poor Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, he is going to be remained of this for quite awhile. That said, you try and keep your cool and get every word exactly right with hundreds of millions of people watching your every breath...

    But, getting it right is important too, Don't want zealots questioning President Obama's right to lead because the Consititution wasn't followed to the letter.

    January 21, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  16. Roger from CA

    Oh, I hope someone taped it!!! If not, I can just hear the wingnut conspiracy theorists claim it never happened.

    I suppose to extend that "abundance of caution", Obama should re-sign all the orders he's signed since noon Tuesday. Or, at least, sign some order that retroactively re-affirms everything he already signed.

    Not that I agree with the guy on anything, but I feel bad for the Chief Justice, who probably has been feeling horrible since yesterday. I'll bet that it was his idea to re-do the oath.

    January 21, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  17. conditionedsoul

    TAKE THAT !! RightWing-nut wackos! Now you can't profligate this ridiculous b.s. story anymore! HA ! AND since you all care so much about the REST of the constitution's words you can support Obama's restoration of American constitutional rights!

    January 21, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  18. Dragon

    We will take it any which way publicly or privately...

    Regardless of what the foe thinks, He (President Obama) is still our president

    Welcome Mr. President, we are glad to have you…

    President Barack Hussein Obama

    You are a first and will forever be the first regardless of what the Republican Conservative think or do.

    Personally I do not believe this was a mistake on the part of the Chief Justice.

    We all need to remember this is the justice who leads our supreme court and presides over serious arguments and sometimes draft summaries for the entire supreme court decision…

    But somehow we are to believe that HE, the Chief Justice, is not capable of reciting or read for that matter a 37 word statement that he had 2 months lead time of preparation…

    "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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."

    I need someone to persuade me of my opinion

    Anything short is incompetent.

    Go figure, You Go Figure…

    January 21, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  19. Indesputable Visual (and Audible) Evidence

    Smart move because I wouldn't put it past some Rovian-like IDIOT to try to make something out of this and disrupt the presidency.

    Unlikely you say? Do you remember the election of 2000 and all the underhanded tricks that the GOP pulled? I don't put anything past these slugs.

    Let's just count how many non supportive, trouble making malcontents comment on this blog.

    January 21, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  20. TjayeInLA

    Good. I can see his opposers scratching their heads trying to figure out what they can try next.

    January 21, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  21. Tope

    ha! ha! ha! "we're going to do it very slowly".

    January 21, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  22. Charlie in Maine

    Hey that is ironic isn't it? Bush was only really elected once but he got to take the oath of office twice too.

    January 21, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  23. Edward

    The first of many do-overs we'll see with this White House, no doubt.

    January 21, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  24. MartaK

    Really unnecessary but done, no doubt, to keep all the crazy Repugs and Obama-Haters at bay since even Faux News reporters were heard questioning his legitimacy as President because of Robert's screw-up. Pathetic. Really, this country is in a world of trouble and we just don't need all these childish nay-sayers and haters dragging us down when the President has the political capital and public sentiment at the moment to effect real change for the good in all our lives.

    January 21, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  25. Shelby

    As I walked away from the National Mall yesterday, I mentioned to cowalkers that Obama was not yet able to execute chief executive duties. I got strange looks. I piously explained Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and odd looks turned to concern. I'm kind of giddy that not everything went perfectly and I got to do some showing off. It gives me something else to talk about when I tell my grandkids about the day I witnessed history. It's pretty cool that Roberts and Obama did it again. I hope somebody YouTubed it. Does Obama have to go back and re-sign those executive orders? Was this a clever, grand plot to keep Gitmo open? Let me be the first to raise a conspiracy theory in the new administration.

    January 21, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
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