CNN: Roberts 'screwed up' oath of office
Mike Sheehan and David Edwards
Published: Tuesday January 20, 2009

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The oath of office of the President of the United States is perhaps the most hallowed tradition in American politics. It marks the end of an intense election process, the peaceful transition of power, and perhaps even the rise of a new generation.

But today, it was a bungle of supreme proportion.

According to the Constitution, the oath is specified as follows: "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." Modern tradition has added "so help me God" to the end of the oath.

John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, had the honor today of administering the oath to Barack Obama with a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln.

But instead of a smooth delivery, Chief Justice Roberts interrupted Obama early and then switched the order of some of the words, slipping up the new president and causing him to hesitate at one point.

ROBERTS: Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?
OBAMA: I am.
ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama...
OBAMA: I, Barack--
ROBERTS: 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... [pause]
ROBERTS: ...faithfully the office of president of the United States...
OBAMA: ...the office of president of the United States faithfully...
ROBERTS: ...and will, to 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.
ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer later commented that Roberts "had one job to do today and he sort of screwed up."

By law, Obama became president at noon Eastern, regardless of the ceremonial oath of office. But that didn't stop some from speculating and others from kidding.

Chris Wallace of FOX News wondered if, due to the fumbled oath, Obama really was president.

Martin Bosworth of the Boztopia blog quipped, "When you think about how Clarence Thomas tried to derail the changeover by having the Court hear the birth certificate case, you have to wonder."

Mark Sherman of The Associated Press later reported that Roberts, shaking hands with the new president before a special luncheon in the Capitol, "chatted briefly with Obama and appeared to say that the mistake was his fault, not Obama's."

This video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast Jan. 20, 2009.

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