Obama retakes oath; Chief Justice doesn’t learn his lesson?

As reported by the ABA Journal here and by MSNBC here, President Obama retook the oath of office last evening in the map room, due to the bungle of Chief Justice Roberts, which Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy attributes to the Chief Judge’s inappropriate adherence to the fifth edition of the Texas Manual of Style‘s bogus requirement that a helping verb and the main verb not be split by an adverb. I just think that Roberts forgot because he was nervous and didn’t bring a cheat sheet, like Justice John Paul Stevens did when he swore in Vice President Biden (video here via Yahoo).

I guess the Chief did not learn from his mistake, and at least according to this photo, once again administered the oath without a cheat sheet:

According to this photo from the White House (via MSNBC) it looks like the Chief Justice once again danced the high wire without a net

According to this photo from the White House (via MSNBC) it looks like the Chief Justice once again danced the high wire without a net

According to the articles, the oath was re-administered because of fears that “conspiracy theorists” would continue to believe that Obama’s presidency was not legitimate, a theory that’s been circling on the Internet since the inauguration:

Craig, the White House lawyer, said in a statement Wednesday evening: “We believe the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday. Yet the oath appears in the Constitution itself. And out of the abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath a second time.”

The Constitution is clear about the exact wording of the oath and as a result, some constitutional experts have said that a do-over probably wasn’t necessary but also couldn’t hurt. Two other previous presidents have repeated the oath because of similar issues, Calvin Coolidge and Chester A. Arthur.

Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8 of the Constitution states:

“Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:

“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.”

That sounds to me that, even though the President “becomes” President by operation of law at Noon, before he can take any action as president “enter on the Execution of his Office,” Obama had to take the oath provided for by the Constitution. I think that the Constitution probably doesn’t require a word-for-word recitation of the oath, so long as what was recited recognized that the new president affirms that he will execute the office and preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.  What if the new president were deaf and had to sign the oath? American Sign Language would not necessarily be a word-for-word translation of the oath (unless each letter were spelled out; unlikely).  Yet, certainly someone using ASL to take the oath would be considered to be president.  Or what about a president who may have a lisp who says “I do tholomy thwear…”?  Once again, I’d say that’s no problem. And the Chief Justice’s acceptance of the oath as sufficient likey ends the inquiry. And who would have standing to challenge the inefficacy of the oath?

But whether or not Obama had to re-take the oath, I’m not sure this will have the desired effect.  Why? Because conspiracy theorists will continue to question the illegitimacy of the president. Not that they need any help, but here are a few more ideas:

  • The President took a variety of executive actions on Tuesday and Wednesday, including nominating cabinet positions.  If the Oath was improperly administered, (which the President implicitly admits by re-taking the Oath) aren’t all of those actions legally invalid?  And if the invalid actions include the nomination and appointment of, for example, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, aren’t all of her subsequent actions as SoS invalid?
  • None of this matters anyway because, according to many conspiracy theorists, Obama was not born in the United States, thus he could never be president to begin with.
  • How can a guy be president when his chief white house counsel is a guy named “Greg Craig“?
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