Should Obama retake the oath?

Some constitutional law experts say that Obama should, just to be safe.


Vincent Rossmeier
January 22, 2009 1:03AM (UTC)

During Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts mangled the wording of the presidential oath of office. As a result, Obama said "execute the Office of President of the United States faithfully" instead of the correct "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States." While the error is both minor and the fault of Roberts, not Obama, as War Room reported Tuesday, that hasn't stopped some in the media from speculating that Obama isn't officially the president because he hasn't taken the constitutionally mandated 35-word oath verbatim.

So should Obama retake the oath? Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post have articles this morning quoting legal experts who say that it might not be a bad idea. Boston University constitutional scholar Jack Beermann told the Chronicle that, "It's an open question whether he's president until he takes the proper oath." The Post quotes constitutional law professor Akhil Reed Amar of Yale University as advising that, "Out of a super-abundance of caution, perhaps [Obama] should do it again."

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While the experts in the pieces agree that the botch is insignificant, both Calvin Coolidge and Chester A. Arthur retook the oath due to similar problems.

For his part, Obama has been kind towards Roberts for the gaffe, telling ABC News that, "Well, listen, I think we were up there, we've got a lot of stuff on our minds and he actually, I think, helped me out on a couple of stanzas there. Overall, I think it went relatively smoothly and I'm very grateful to him."

Vice President Joe Biden hasn't been as generous. Never one to miss a chance to have his say on any topic, before swearing in new White House staffers today, Biden joked, "My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts'."


Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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