- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. fumbled the oath of office to President Obama on Tuesday, getting a word out of order and briefly stalling the political ritual as the nation and the world watched.

Ironically, Mr. Obama, who like the chief justice is a Harvard graduate and sits atop one of the nation’s three branches of government, voted against Mr. Roberts’ nomination to the court in 2005.

Mr. Obama, the nation’s first black president, also is the first commander in chief to be sworn in by a man whose nomination to the Supreme Court he opposed, said Jeffrey Lax, a political science professor at Columbia University. The new president was among 22 senators voting against Mr. Roberts after his nomination by President George W. Bush.

Holding firmly the Bible that Abraham Lincoln used for his swearing-in 147 years earlier at his first inaugural, Mr. Roberts slipped on the second phrase, saying, “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear [pause] that I will execute the Office of the President faithfully.”

The proper phrasing, as written in the Constitution, is: “… do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President.”

Mr. Obama, apparently realizing that something was not right, stopped and Mr. Roberts repeated the phrase, this time correctly.

After a brief smile from Mr. Obama, and a slight redo, the two completed the recitation of the 35-word oath. Mr. Obama closed with the traditional “So help me God,” and Mr. Roberts was the first to congratulate him.


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