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. Steve (the real one)

    Proactive, wise, and smart! This coming from a conservative!

    January 21, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  2. Sue

    Whatever... the symbolism was there...
    this is just going to fill the minds of conspiracy theorists... as if we need anymore of them.

    January 21, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  3. Mobius

    Good job. That's transparent.

    January 21, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  4. DIZIZI31

    Repeat after me...

    January 21, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  5. bill for barack

    Roberts was a Bush appointee.
    Just one more sad lame attempt by the Bushies to subvert , ridicule and destroy theAmerican way.
    Bush spent eight years spitting on the Constitution and teaching his lackeys todo the same.
    This should come as no surprise.

    January 21, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  6. Dan

    And this couldn't have been done earlier to save over $140 million in our taxes!? This inauguration was over four times higher in cost than past ones. The inauguration should have been conducted privately to save money given the state of our economy and people losing jobs. I guess the parties at AIG, costing only $330,000, looks cheap compared to this one! Another leadership flaw for the Democrats....

    January 21, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  7. Chris

    How can anyone say that Roberts threw the President off when it states plainly that --

    On Tuesday, 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.

    Even the reporters can't report it straight.

    January 21, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  8. legal in nc

    Was not needed, but I understand the purpose behind it. Just trying to make sure that the far out crazies may try to say something stupid about it not being an authentic swearing in process yesterday but the intelligent will know "it's all good".

    January 21, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  9. Glen In Los Angeles

    This whole episode is hilarious and makes me even more proud of our new President. What's more....a good sign that this administration will produce some decent Obama fodder for late night comedians. I can't wait to see what SNL does with this.

    January 21, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  10. Michael

    Probably good that they re-did the oath; the last thing anybody needs is some conspiracy theory idiot waiting a few years and starting a lawsuit, claiming Obama was never actually the president.

    So Justice Roberts flubbed the oath. Life will go on. At least the new President's speech was eloquent and inspiring. That's what really counted yesterday.

    January 21, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. Bryan

    lol @ presidential mulligans. Way to go Justice Roberts. Oh well, merely a formality to squelch any possible technicalities that d-bags would bring up later 🙂

    January 21, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  12. R Ward

    Everybody makes mistakes in life, unfortunately this was very noticeable.
    Give Roberts a break, it was not intentional and both of them tried to make the best of it. It is refreshing to observe how two people came together and helped each other.

    January 21, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  13. bob from Oregon

    I found it interesting that the person administering the oath of office to the new president was the object of a "no" vote when he was being confirmed by the full Senate. The person casting a "no" vote for now Chief Justice John Roberts was none other than our new President –Barack Obama.

    I guess, both men have now evened the score. Justice Roberts flubbed the oath, necessitating a re-do. It appears that both men stepped on each other's lines. However, it probably would have been a REALLY GOOD IDEA for Justice Roberts to actually have a copy of the oath to refer to. I'll bet in four years when he administers the oath to President Obama again, he's going to have a copy handy!

    January 21, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  14. Observant

    I, for one am pleased that Obama retook the oath, otherwise we will be bracing from an onslaugther of crap from the Rush Limbaugh , Chris Wallace and the like.

    Now, that the oath is over, let's move on.

    January 21, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  15. J-Syxx

    Yeah, Dan. Keep telling yourself that. Your just jealous that Bush didn't get this kind of attention, well maybe for leaving like the failure he is.

    January 21, 2009 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  16. Zion

    Hmmm...Dan because so many people complained about the price of this party that's why celebrities such as Halle Berry decided to foot the bill. Some of the same people complaining did not say a word when President Bush had his inauguration dinner where over 2,000 shrimp plates were left over ($1500 a plate). The economy was already in the toilet by that time.

    January 21, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. Joseph


    I am glad that this country gives you the right to express such an acidic opinion.

    January 21, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  18. Donna

    Whatever Dan..just like if we would have had our troops home and not spending BILLIONS A MONTH in Iraq, we'd be better off financially as a nation..another "leadership"(term used very lightly) FLAW OF George W. Bush...

    Get over it....

    January 21, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  19. Minnie Mouse

    He didn't have to but good. Unfortunately it still won't shut up the racist wing nuts who STILL can't believe he's President.


    January 21, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  20. roger in ga

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

    January 21, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  21. Chris from NY

    Because Chris Wallace of Fox news claimed that Obama is not the President for John Robert's mess at the recitation of the oath of office. Isn't that stupid.

    January 21, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  22. Flo

    Good for you Mr. President that will keep Chris Wallace and the hate mongers at Fox news to stop the insanity. Keep in mind you are living under a microscope and everything you do or not do will cause some folks to criticize your every move or misstep. God Bless...............

    January 21, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  23. Tony in Maine

    OMG Dan, So you have to forego a piece of penny candy, grow up.

    January 21, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  24. jmv

    So, what do you think??? Did Roberts do this on purpose to make Obama look incompetent?? Afterall, Obama did NOT vote to put Roberts on the Supreme Court. HMMMMMM. . .

    January 21, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  25. Al

    It wouldn't hurt to repeat the oath on a weekly basis just to stay grounded, otherwise, actions speak louder than words. Let's get on with the plan of the day.

    January 21, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
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