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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My brother said, “With this wing I thee wed,” at his wedding, and he’s still married. So let the games begin!

Posted by Lewis Davies | Report as abusive

Another worthless puppet. I don’t care about him goofing the oath he has no intentions on living up to.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

It is possible that Chief Justice Roberts was editing the oath, consciously or unconsciously. Placing “faithfully” at the sentence’s end preserves the meaning and avoids splitting the verb. This is not to defend the mistake: one would expect the Chief, of all people, to take the strict constructionist approach to the Constitution’s text.

Posted by Stephen Taylor | Report as abusive

Hmm … so we’re to believe that the Chief Justice of this nation’s highest court was so nervous and unprepared that he messed up his most public duty? Hmm. Just trying to wrap my head around this one. Barack Hussein Obama stayed cool and guided his elder through the ceremony. Good. First. Step.

Posted by Stevelknievel | Report as abusive

Jason, you are kidding right? Gotta love this sort of mentality

Posted by Barb | Report as abusive


Posted by BECKY | Report as abusive

Aw, Jason. I’m sorry the world keeps hurting your feelings. It’s a mean place, I know.

But cynicism is the easiest thing to muster, and the most unimaginative.

Chin up, son. Santa will you the president you want one day.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

Justice Roberts must surely wish he had kept his notes out…
However, it did not diminish the beauty and the power of the event. What a speech. What a spectacle. What a day. What a country.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

they are both silly geese

Posted by john f | Report as abusive

Well let the LAwsuits begin After all the first thing HE did was NOT to Faithfully excute the Office of President
so some one will file suit Great Country

Posted by Lee Farmington NM | Report as abusive

How in the world can you say he is a puppet when he hasn’t had the opportunity to lead this nation? Bias and prejudice have blighted this presidential campaign, and you just proved that it still continues even to the day of inauguration.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

The President’s willingness to do it Justice Robert’s way (Incorrect though it may have been) says a lot about the man’s forbearance of the errors of others and his willingness to accommodate them!

Posted by Don Gillman | Report as abusive

For the Obama children, Malia and Sasha. On the internet go to – if you like jigsaw puzzles, you’ll love today’s puzzle. I finished mine and have it saved on my computer. We’re all proud of you’re whole family & extended family. Enjoy this time and keep in the “now”.

Posted by omi rubenstein | Report as abusive

It was Justice Roberts who spoke incorrectly. Obama tried to “save” him as best he could. My husband said at the time that the words were not the correct words. I guess Roberts was nervous after all. Obama certainly wasn’t. I am thrilled that Barack Obama is our new president!

Posted by Betsy Young | Report as abusive

I agree with Jason. There will be no real change. The only change he will bring is a partial break from President George W. Bush’s policies. While this may be an improvement, those who are expecting a lot from President Obama will be disasspointed. Remember Robert, inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist.

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

We are all human, even the best.

Posted by jojo jud | Report as abusive

Roberts sure stood FAR away from Obama while giving the oath…

Posted by Susan | Report as abusive

Roberts got it wrong from the beginning, calling Obama “Senator”, when he was already president (since noon, according to the constitution). He should’ve at least said “president elect” if he was unfamiliar with the constitution 😉

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

Please let the President have today before the hate begins. Even after the mess of 2000, we let outgoing President Bush have his day.

Posted by peter | Report as abusive

this is the that the lord has made . thanks 4 this new and brighter day b blessed

Posted by lisa bell | Report as abusive

In fairness, Obama cut Roberts off during the first sentence and then I think Roberts got thrown off. Not a great start, but I think he’ll recover…

Posted by claudeboo | Report as abusive

Note for future inaugurations: Read the oath from a card.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

Conspiracy Theory>>?? Only a conspiracy if he was not to be inaugurated and an oath practiced, Obama is a remarkable speaker, if he would have practiced, he wouldn’t have committed the mistake, knowingly that he was near perfection during his presidential campaign. However, i have faith that he will take the necessary steps to reduce corruption, fraud, and pet projects managed by beauracratic middle men… This is the right person we need to understand and know everything that would be affecting our countries best interest…

Posted by ALVARO | Report as abusive

I have recited a version of this oath numerous times in my service of the country. Each oath of office, whether for soldier, senator or president starts out with; “I__________________do solemnly swear”,…

Every private knows how to take this oath. Obama does not and he just demonstrated a FAIL. You wait until you hear the entire first line and only then do you recite it.

OBAMA JUMPED THE GUN and cut off Chief Justice Roberts before he had completed the line, thus showing Obama does not even know how to properly take the oath of office – something even Bush can do perfectly.

Obama screwed up the cadence, the timing and his “moment in front of the world” which will live in infamy and the disgrace of the United States of America.

Time to call Bush back into to preside until we get a real leader, not this Fraud, this boy, this media invention, this empty suit.

Oh yeah. The constant harping and criticism payback for the way the Rats and their media have treated others – begins today… Get used to it.

Posted by Boe | Report as abusive

I thought Roberts did it on purpose, to mar Obama’s shining moment in the Sun, like sticking a verbal leg out to trip him, and it worked…but a hiccup in mere form and surface things don’t matter at all today – we have moved from 8 years of the “YeeHa” approach to governing to real substance. Thank God for Barack Obama. Justice Roberts should be ashamed whether he did this on purpose or not. SEriously, ht’s not that long of an oath…

Posted by flora68 | Report as abusive

I’m with you. When we have taken back our great country, we will have the satisfaction of saying to “Robert” and the others — “we told you so.”


Posted by Sandy | Report as abusive

Justice Roberts made the mistake of not having the oath in writing in front of him. It’s a shame that a big moment was jumbled a bit—but certainly not consequential.

Posted by Susan Daniel | Report as abusive

There’s a Santa? I had been informed otherwise.

Posted by isaac32767 | Report as abusive

Perhaps it was a tribute to the outgoing President who was famous for his malapropisms, n.k.a. Bushisms. Of course, neither of these gentlemen can mangle a phrase with the literally effortless ease of Mr. Bush, our first President for whom English was a second language. Unfortunately, he did not have a first.

Posted by Louise | Report as abusive

Jason !!!! its people like u that never seem to amaze me, lets switch to gatorade hun !! haterade is not doing u well !!!! This is history baby Nothing is going to change that sweety, soooo get over it !!! Obama is a fine young man and will be known as one of the best presidents of the USA in that book ur grandbabies will be reading a few yrs from now xoxoxoxox

Posted by Melissa | Report as abusive

Are we really placing this much value on an oath that is not really needed?
@Boe – Bush choked on a pretzel.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

Err, but the constitution says that the oath must be taken before he can execute his duties. That clause was never removed. There is room for argument, though i do not personally agree. Actually, depending on how you interpret the constitution, technically, for one minute Condolezza Rice was acting president(Byrd and Pelosi did not qualify because they must resign before becoming acting president, and Rice is still the secretary of state, until clinton gets confirmed)! So she is really the first african american president!

Posted by Dimitri | Report as abusive

All I can think about is THANK GOD Bush is gone. He has done immeasurable damage to our country, and we are fortunate to have a new President- eloquence and intelligence are good, not bad. Thank God we collectively have opened our eyes.

Posted by Jean | Report as abusive

Thank God for Barack Hussein Obama.

This country is finally turning around.

Posted by Stan | Report as abusive

A message to “Boe,” the poster who railed about Obama “botching” the oath of office: The era of “gotcha” politics is SO 20th century, and so are the people who cling to it (you know who you are!)

Posted by patty | Report as abusive

I believe Roberts messed up on purpose. He wanted to give
his conservative cronies something to banter about – they could say that Obama didn’t know the Presidential Oath, but Obama didn’t take the bait.

Like the gameshow host in “Slumdog Millionaire”, who
tried to persuade the young hero to give the wrong answer, Justice Roberts tried to get Obama to say the wrong words.
Thankfully, we have a smart, articulate, well-read, kind and organized President, at last.

Posted by vicki johnston | Report as abusive

I’m with you. When we have taken back our great country, we will have the satisfaction of saying to “Robert” and the others — “we told you so.”


Who is “we”? Get back on your meds

Posted by Sandy2 | Report as abusive

It’s so sad to see so many citizens are still so oblivious or apathetic to the very serious problems facing our nation that they can’t even wait a full day to search for reasons to find fault with our new president. Sadder yet, that they feel they’re entitled to hate Obama because of Bush’s failed polices and his unpopularity here & all over the world. Petty, petty.

Roberts should have read from a card if he was too nervous to remember a few simple lines. I sure hope he’s not so easily thrown off his game when he’s performing his job.

Posted by LI_Mom | Report as abusive

This was Mr. Roberts doing. The oath, as instructed by all chief justices to presidents taking the oath in the past, and as contained in Article II of the Constitution, recites as …that I will faithfully execute… and not …United States faithfully…

Possibly Mr. Roberts wanted to trip up the President at this momentous occasion. President Obama obviously knew the right order, but felt he should follow the lead of Mr. Roberts. Shame on Mr. Roberts.

As to the comment by ”Boe” about the first line, Mr. Roberts definitely stopped speaking until President Obama was in the middle of repeating the instructed phrase. Shame on Mr. Roberts again.

Posted by Paul Hinton | Report as abusive

To Boe – who griped about Obama “botching” the oath and gives him a “fail”.

Obama has been confident, articulate, eloquent and inspiring in all his public appearances in the long long run-up to this day.

I am sorry that his (and Roberts) little slip-up is so important to you. In fact, I am just sorry for you. Now get back to your studies sweetie, I hope you do well this year.

Posted by OzTerri | Report as abusive

LI_Mom: We do not hate Obama because of the Bush policies. We do not even hate him. We merely state that the U.S. Constitution precludes the socialistic policies he wants to implement. Mandatory service is force. Global warming is simply not true based on scientific data. And that’s not to mention his inability/unwillingness to produce the document that proves he is even eligible to be president. Any departure from our Republic’s Constitution is treasonous.

Posted by t harrison | Report as abusive

As a former Federal personnelist who administered the oath of office to a lot of newly hired Federal employees, I can assure you that Justice Roberts not only screwed up the cadence but the oath itself. There is always a break between “I (and your name)” and “do solemly swear (or affirm)”. Plus Obama isn’t the President “to” the United States but President “of” the United States. Roberts seemed so flustered that he missed the line regarding “taking this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion”. Justice John Paul Stevens got it right when he swore in Joe Biden. Your correspondent Boe is quite uninformed.

Posted by Pete Lannon | Report as abusive

In the interests of bipartisanship, I have to say it was a shared fumble. Obama prematurely stated his name, before the Chief Justice finished the opening line. My guess is that the CJ was then thrown slightly off rhythm; hence his rearrangement of the word ‘faithfully’.

Posted by Cheryl | Report as abusive

It’s fine. Obama will get another opportunity along with another Justice in four years.

Posted by RD | Report as abusive

35-word constitutionally-prescribed oath of office:

“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.” [EMPHASES added]
– (Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution)

R: “Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?” [ad libitum]

R: “I, Barack Hussein Obama,”
O: “I, Barack…”/R: “…do solemnly swear…”
O: “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…”
R: “…that I will EXECUTE the office of President TO the United States FAITHFULLY…” [EMPHASES added]
O: “that I will execute…”
R: “…THE OFF- …FAITHFULLY THE PRES- …the office of President of the United States, …” [EMPHASES added]
O: “…the office of President of the United States faithfully, …”
R: “and will, to the best of my ability, …”
O: “and will, to the best of my ability, …”
R: “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
O: “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

R: “So help you God?” [ad libitum]
O: “So help me God.”
-(Presidential Inauguration, 01.20.2009; Reuters video, verbatim transcription)


“Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled slightly over the 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office as he swore in Barack Obama as the 44th president on Tuesday, sending the new chief executive into a verbal detour of his own.”
-(MARK SHERMAN, AP News, 01.20.2009 [ cy/article/roberts-obama-oath/310122])


Both men were in sync with one another AND the text at the substantial pause following the phrase, “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…” All errors thereafter fall to the Chief Justice, who has already acknowledged– and apologized for– as much, and may be forgiven his performance anxiety, this being his first swearing-in ceremony. Those unfortunate posters who continue to insist otherwise, claiming to have seen and heard what the remainder of the world did not, despite ubiquitous audio, video, and textual evidence directly contradicting their assertions, may likewise be forgiven their delusions and pitied for a world-view so obviously stunted by Fox News and talk radio.

Posted by NoMan | Report as abusive

It was Roberts’ revenge!

Posted by Elisa | Report as abusive

Roberts also said “to” the United States instead of “of” the United States. Two flubs by the CJ.

Posted by chris | Report as abusive

It’s emblematic of the problems from the “Christian” right that Roberts put “faithfully” in the wrong place — they’re always trying to put “faith” where it doesn’t belong.

Posted by David Kidd | Report as abusive

Who cares about misplacing a word. That is insignificant. What really matters,as t harrison points out, both Roberts and Obama have violated the part of the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” when Obama either can’t or won’t prove that he is legally able to take office. Roberts should be impeached and Obama prosecuted.

Posted by James L | Report as abusive

I love the last post about the wedding. I think he jumped the gun a bit, nerves probably. It did make me feel a little uneasy,however… everyone makes mistakes. At my wedding I said, “I, Fred, take you Joann.” I said my husband’s line… Everyone got a laugh.

Posted by joann | Report as abusive

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.

Posted by Melissa | Report as abusive

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

[…] a little after 2 p.m., Brian Williams was already calling “old news” Chief Justice John Roberts’ muddling of the oath of office he was administering. Roberts failed to faithfully execute the oath,  misplacing the word […]

Posted by BC/DC: Eggerton on Washington » Blog Archive » Hail To the New Chief | 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

[…] 1/20/roberts-obama-jumble-presidential-o ath-of-office/ […]

Posted by Jubilee Prosperity » Blog Archive » Cut Debts, Deaths, Spending and Taxes to Create More American Employment, Investment, Productivity, Prosperity, Savings and Surplus | Report as abusive

[…] Bob Shrum wrote in the Daily Beast, “John Roberts may have forgotten the oath of office when he administered it to Barack Obama; he remembered his oath when he decided this case. Indeed maybe it is possible that Al Gore would […]

Posted by The Media’s New Favorite Supreme Court » Choosing Life – God's Gift To The Unborn | Report as abusive