Chief Justice Roberts to get another go at oath
January 4th, 2013
09:35 AM ET
9 years ago

Chief Justice Roberts to get another go at oath

Washington (CNN) – His appearance in the 2009 inauguration is remembered mostly for the awkward moment he bungled the words to the presidential oath of office.

But on Friday, President Barack Obama announced he was giving Chief Justice John Roberts another chance – two in fact – to administer the oath at the president's second inauguration in mid-January.

"I will be honored to again stand on the Inaugural platform and take part in this important American tradition," Obama said in a statement distributed by the committee planning the upcoming event. "I look forward to having Chief Justice John Roberts administer my oath of office as we gather to celebrate not just a president or vice president, but the strength and determination of the American people."

While the chief justice in almost always the person swearing in the president, it isn't a legally mandated post. The president can choose who he wants to perform the task. On Friday, the inaugural committee also announced that Vice President Joe Biden had chosen Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor to administer his oath.

She'll be the fourth woman to preside over a presidential or vice presidential swearing in – the first was federal judge Sarah T. Hughes, who swore in Lyndon B. Johnson aboard Air Force One following John F. Kennedy's assassination. Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg have both sworn in vice presidents.

Roberts, who was nominated to the high court in 2005 by Republican George W. Bush, became something of a liberal icon this summer after the Supreme Court upheld the lynchpin of Obama's sweeping health care law. The 5-4 ruling, which came during the heated presidential election, determined the individual insurance mandate was constitutional if viewed as a tax. Roberts himself wrote the majority opinion upholding the measure.

Roberts will actually administer the oath twice in 2013. Since the Constitutionally-mandated Inauguration Day of January 20 falls on a Sunday, there will be two swearing-in ceremonies this year. One will take place in private on Sunday, and the public ceremony will take place on Monday.

Roberts delivered the oath twice in 2009 as well. After Roberts flubbed the order of words during the public ceremony, a do-over took place in the White House Map Room the next day to erase any question that Obama was officially the president.

Roberts, apparently working without a copy of the oath handy on the Capitol steps, 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.

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

Filed under: John Roberts • President Obama
soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. plain&simple

    If Obama is a dictator like those right wing,destroy our country to make Obama look bad , mindless morons like to this just for show? You know they will say yes!!! By the way Obama is going to allow a third term to office ....he really likes being president/ king/ dictator!!!

    January 4, 2013 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  2. Gurgyl

    I love John Roberts. I wrote him a Lester sometime in early '12. He is just great guy without bias, racial feeling. Nation needs this kind of people.

    January 4, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  3. GuestAgain

    If a president is elected to a second term we should pass on the inauguration and save the tax payer some money. We have to start somewhere.....

    January 4, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  4. Larry in Houston

    @ plain & simple – so far, he's the only rational and / or sane person that is Qualified for the Job. ( maybe they will change a law, no ? )

    January 4, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  5. jpmichigan

    The joke is one the American people. No one in the Hill that takes the oat of office to up hold and protect the constitution actually by action keeps that vow.

    January 4, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  6. jpmichigan

    Another photo-op moment without honor!

    January 4, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  7. empresstrudy

    2 weeks ago CNN reported hotel reservations for the event were only at 47%.

    January 4, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  8. Bill in Florida

    Plain & Simple: your ignorance of the facts is obvious: the President does not determine whether the President serves more than two terms! You might want to do some Googling or book-reading before sending out another post.

    January 4, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. Ed1

    Don't worry Obama doesn't uphold any laws unless it doesn't help get votes for the Democrats.

    January 4, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  10. Moon

    @plain and simple - that is a very fitting name for you! Keep it! You should also consider taking an English/writing course at the 7th grade level and maybe you can do your final class project on the dictatorship!! Keep thinking!! It's really swell to see the lower end of the gene pool using their heads!

    January 4, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. plain&simple

    @ Bill in Florida ....I know this fact,was speaking tongue in cheek! Ignorance is saying he's a dictator!!! Larry in Houston knows!

    January 4, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  12. JustWho

    Looks like there's still a gross number of haters of the man of color.

    January 4, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  13. Wilson

    Hmmm, Obama swearing to defend a document he finds "inconvienent," yet has proven so far to violate that first oath he took whenever he wishes.

    January 4, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  14. Ray E. (Georgia)

    The President, of course takes the Oath to uphold the Constutition. Too many times in the last 75 or so years the Constutition has been corrupted and violated. The huge mess we are in today is because of too many people looking the other way. People came to the new world to get away from Big Government, not Re-Invent it. Hard work made this country. Socalisim is killing it. We don't need to Re-Invent the Soviet Union, of which we all know was a smashing sucess.

    January 4, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  15. Wilson

    Hmmm, swearing to defend a document he finds "inconvienent," yet has proven so far to violate that first oath he took whenever he wishes.

    January 4, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. Wake up People!

    @Guestagain. I actually entered the workforce in high school. I continued working while attending Business School (yes, I paid my student loans off). Soon after I got married and had two children. Soon after my husband became abusive and I had to leave him. I had two children that I had to support basically on my own since my ex was so vindictive. So no, I didn't pi$$ my paychecks away, I used them to ensure my children were very well provided for. Please stop making assumptions about people you don't even know. And where in my post did I say anything about taking from anyone else? I work very hard and I don't ask anyone for ANYTHING.

    @Lynda, thanks for the kind words, I will take your advice.

    January 4, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. Woman In California

    @ empresstrudy

    2 weeks ago CNN reported hotel reservations for the event were only at 47%.

    So what? I'm sure the Obama's are not concerned with it and neither are those of us who overwhelmingly voted for his second term. Why go to D.C., freeze and pay all that money, when we can watch it on television for free? Besides, the excitement is over and the most important thing to most of us will be that Willard Romney won't be the one taking the oath.

    January 4, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota


    @Wake up People!

    Geez Wilson give it a rest.
    Liberal response when they can't argue with the facts.


    Perhaps if your side weren't so hell bent on mocking and ridiculing those who have suffered less fortunate set backs than yourselves ... "liberals" wouldn't feel the need to end a conversation directed at them that was filled with nothing but hate and bias.

    January 4, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. Randy, San Francisco

    Previous transgressions are forgiven, Chief Justice Roberts did the right thing in upholding the health care law. Hoping he will do the right thing again by validating gay marriages.

    January 4, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  20. Data Driven

    Reading these posts this morning, I'm struck by timeless relevance of Aesop's fable about the fox and the grapes he couldn't reach.

    January 4, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  21. Wake up People!

    @Bill in Florida, in defense of plain & simple, he was being facetious. The RWNJ's are always yelling about President Obama giving himself another term thereby becoming a dictator.

    January 4, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  22. Dyna Hog

    Another OATH to an "ineligible" citizen. Article II, Section 1, Clause 5

    No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.

    Obama's father was British when he was born. Obama is British-American, and is not and could not ever be a "natural born citizen".

    Why is the Chief Justice ignoring the Constitution along with Congress and MOST DEMOCRATS?

    January 4, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. Expat American

    No shame in slipping a 3×5 under his sleeve. At least it won't say "Mitt Romney" – Praise The Lord.

    January 4, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. tom

    The cost of the innauguration is paid for by private funds. They did cut back by only having a military ball and a regular ball instead of 10 balls. I am so glad that Romney did NOT get elected – but then the field of idiots presented to the public by the Repuklicans was astonishing. NONE were qualified to even be elected dog-catcher.

    January 4, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  25. plain&simple

    @Ray E Georgia The hard work you refer to in building this country is to the unions and tradesmen and slaves and all the people who gave their blood and lives. They built the tunnels and bridges and damns....they built the infrastructure that allowed this nation to prosper. Now it needs rebuilding. Again they are called upon and our president recognizes this.....the constitution is a living document ,structured to evolve and fit unforseen issues as they occure. Our founders knew forsite was needed when they penned our constitution and Obama has defended it well. Only the literalist have a problem with our current president and their narrow vision does not reflect the wisdom of our forefathers!

    January 4, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
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