Roberts, Obama jumble presidential oath of office

January 20, 2009

WASHINGTON – It was merely a formality and it’s probably a few phrases that both Barack Obama and Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts have practiced several times, but the leader of the Supreme Court may have been just a tad nervous when he got one word of the presidential oath of office a little out of order.

Obama smiled slightly when he realized that Roberts, a fellow Harvard Law School graduate, misplaced the word “faithfully” during the oath. but the new president joined in the fun and repeated it the way Roberts initially administered it. (Lest we forget, in the Senate Obama voted against confirming Roberts to the high court. Last week Obama met with him and the other Supreme Court justices during a courtesy call.)

Here is how the oath is supposed to be administered: “I do solemnly swear 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.”

And here’s how it went:

ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama…

OBAMA: I, Barack…

ROBERTS: … do solemnly swear…

OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…

ROBERTS: … that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully…

OBAMA: … that I will execute…

ROBERTS: … faithfully the office of president of the United States…

OBAMA: … the office of president of the United States faithfully…

ROBERTS: … and will to the best of my ability…

OBAMA: … and will to the best of my ability…

ROBERTS: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

OBAMA: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

ROBERTS: So help you God?

OBAMA: So help me God.

For any conspiracy theorists worried Obama isn’t president because the oath was a little off, the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that the new president assumes office at noon on Jan. 20.

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I just think it’s funny that Chief Justice Roberts was appointed for his credentials as a strict constructionsist, yet apparently can’t read the Constitution correctly. Obviously judicial activism ;)

Posted by Sean | Report as abusive

t harrison wrote:

“Any departure from our Republic’s Constitution is treasonous.”

–So I assume you will be pushing the hardest of all of us to make sure Bush and Cheney are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law?

Posted by E Crawford | Report as abusive

Roberts made a similar mistake when he was confirmed, by saying he was going over to the “Executive” branch of government, when in fact he should have said “legislative”, i.e. Congress.

Posted by john sosman | Report as abusive

Nice call, Sosman. Even though it would not be the executive nor the legislative, but the “judicial.”

Well done.

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

Why didn’t you mention that the REASON Roberts stumbled was because Obama jumped the gun and interrupted him as he administered the opening phrase of the oath?

You guys are so in the tank for Obama even now. All you had to do was admit the truth: Barack was supposed to wait until after the opening lines were finished by Roberts but he jumped in and started his part too early. That would put anyone off their rhythm in such a situation.

Barach deserved the flub: he caused it. Just be honest.

Posted by Leviticus | Report as abusive

Heh Even the First Lady reassured Roberts not to worry about it. My God I would’ve practiced that till I would’ve been saying it, cadence and word perfect in my sleep from a tape recording made during the rehearsals.

Posted by Goto | Report as abusive


The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and the newly elected President of the United States (Harvard educated scholar of the U.S. constitution) couldn’t get the oath of office of President of the United States done correctly?

Is it true these guys are making adolescent errors while swearing the oath of office of the President of the United States?

Reminiscent of Keystone Cops.

Hard to believe…

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

Obama did jump the gun during the first line of the oath, but to say he caused Roberts screw up as well is just silly. Talk about “in the tank”. Both guys are grown men and responsible for their own mistakes. Obama hasn’t been in office a day yet and you’re already blaming him for stuff he didn’t do. You’re funny.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Oh stop it already. This is a non-issue. There are plenty of other real issues to discuss.

Good grief, they were both nervous. Have you ever had to speak in front of 1.5 million people before? It’s NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL PEOPLE. Why do you all feel the need to ARGUE about it. Like Obama says, change comes from the inside and each of us needs to do our part!

Posted by Omg | Report as abusive

t.harrison: What socialistic practices are you speaking of? His “wealth redistribution” comment? We already have that… our income tax. And yes, that’s forced. So that’s unconstitutional?

And what document is he withholding. Oh, the whole “he won’t show anyone his birth certificate” urban legend? Total lie. Dude was born in Hawaii. You know how I know? I SAW HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE. Look it up. Too lazy? Here’s one link: image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2008/06  /13/bobirthcertificate.jpg

And read the article… amendment 20 shows no need for the oath. He could have not shown at all and he’d still be president at noon.

Please quit spreading this FUD, it’s quite childish.

Posted by sonofalink | Report as abusive

If it is true that Chief Justice Roberts proceeded over the swearing in without notes than shame on him… Another individual in a previous post mentioned that anyone would be nervous standing in view of so many … My question is Why choose this moment to not have my notes ? What is this one upmanship? I can do it without notes! Or was it a misstep – i.e., left them in my other pants pocket… Perhaps what I have read elsewhere is not fact and someone far wiser can set me straight. The entire swearing in was rushed – the sense of awkwardness was evident from the initial question… and then to find out he didn’t have any notes… OkOk it may be a small item in the larger context …. enough said.

Posted by Heather Lord | Report as abusive

For some fun, watch the Youtube video where FDR to Obama oaths can be viewed. GHWB almost started too soon, just like Obama; Clinton also began to step on the lines. My favorite – Gerald Ford, who already had his right hand up when Warren Burger said “please raise your right hand.” Rehnquist always had notes to keep on track. Roberts should of had a cheat sheet. No shame in that – big stage, big moment, be prepared.

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

By the way folks – they weren’t being watched by 1.5 million people, more like hundreds of millions of people ALL OVER THE PLANET collected for the exact same moment in time!

Talk about nerves! It could have gone a LOT worse than a few words flubs. It just shows that everyone is human, and that’s important to remember in a time when people want and expect so much from someone – as well as put him on a pedestal beyond what he’s earned.

No criticism on our Prez. I am very excited and hopeful about this new era in our country and our new President. It’s our duty to be positive, support progress and be actively involved. Apathy rots a country from within.

The hubbub is over – let’s get to work!

Posted by Yo | Report as abusive

To Leviticus;

It was highly obvious that President Obama knew what Chief Justice Roberts was supposed to say. Also, the rhythm of an oath begins with the persons name and then the remaining portions of the first line. President Obama knew this…he then flowed ‘with’ the Chief Justice.

Posted by Febbie | Report as abusive

The world’s population is around 6.7 Billion. Maybe 5% watched the inaugeration, around 3.35 Million.

President Obama and Justice Roberts repeated, correctly this time, the Oath Of Office in the Map Room of the White House.

This is a credit to President Obama and likely indicates his perspective of the weight and serious nature of his Office to the citizens of the United States and the countries around the world.

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

“So help me God” is also not part of the Constitutionally required oath of Office.

So, did all of the presidents for 150 years back govern illegally?

Posted by David Rosen | Report as abusive

I Would like to redistribute your wealth. Please to remind the man that he took an oath in God’s name to preserve protect and defend … not to find fault with, look for “flaws”, and shred the Constitution. Messing up on the word “faithfully” was an ominous sign. Can a President be impeached for betraying the oath to office?

Posted by Andrew H Hasty | Report as abusive