Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’
Barry, seriously….there are cameras on you all the time. You can’t go checking out “the local talent,” as my dad used to say. I don’t even look around in my own office, you can’t be caught by the world press corps in Italy having a look.
Having attended a college graduation last week (congrats, Jason!) that took two hours and was indoors in Chicago, I feel for the 71,000 or so who have to sit in 100+ degree heat today at Arizona State University while President Obama delivers the commencement address.
There was a big brouhaha over ASU’s decision not to award President Obama an honorary degree, and, as usual, The Daily Show is right on top of the story.
How’d the last guy’s suit and tie policy work out?
I know Ronald Reagan felt he should never come into the Oval Office without a tie and a jacket on. Fantastic. It’s a venerable American thing and deserves respect. Much like the office of the president itself does.
But it’s far more important that the president get stuff done than how he’s dressed while doing it. Relax, people. We have actual problems to deal with.
(Yes, I admit it, I only separated this post from the previous one so I could use that headline. Sue me.)
The last thing on the Oath of Office brouhaha (or, if you will, the SCOTUSPOTUSOOOSNAFU):
Someone going by the username reaganwayne on Youtube has posted a collection of presidential Oaths of Office over the years, and they’re interesting. You can view them for yourself, but here’s a synopsis:
- Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933): Chief Justice Charles E. Hughes reads the entire oath in second person, and as a question (“Do you, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, solemnly swear…?”), and FDR repeats it in first person. Oath delivered as written in the Constitution.
- Harry S Truman (1948): Chief Justice Fred Vinson administers the oath in second person, as a question, pausing for Truman to respond in first person. Oath delivered as written.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1957): Chief Justice Earl Warren administers the oath in second person, pausing for Eisenhower to respond in first person. Ike inserts the word “the” before “President of the United States.”
- John F. Kennedy (1961): Warren (speaking in second person, as a question), and JFK repeats in first person.
- Lyndon Johnson (1965*): Earl Warren again (again in second person, again as a question), and this time he inserts the word “the” before “Presidency of the United States” and LBJ repeats both departures from the Constitution (in first person).
- Richard Nixon (1973): Chief Justice Warren Burger administers the oath in first person and Nixon repeats it in first person, as written.
- Gerald Ford (1974): Burger again, administered in first person and repeated in first person as written in the Constitution.
- Jimmy Carter (1977): Burger administers and Carter responds in first person, as written. What’s interesting is that instead of saying, “I, James Carter” or “I, James Earl Carter,” Burger says, and Carter repeats, “I, Jimmy Carter.” I’m thinking that must have been a request on the part of the President. Keeping it folksy.
- Ronald Reagan (1981): One more for Warren Burger, who administers the Oath in first person, except for “So help you God.” Reagan repeats in first person, as written.
- George H. W. Bush (1989): First one for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who uses “George Herbert Walker Bush” and administers the oath in first person. Bush, repeating in first person, almost jumps the cue after his name and before “do solemnly swear.” Oath as written.
- Bill Clinton (1993): Rehnquist again, first person administration, first person response, as written.
- George W. Bush (2001): Rehnquist addresses the President as “George Walker Bush,” and administers the oath in first person, with Bush repeating in first person, as written.
So there have been minor variations in the Oaths taken by US Presidents over the years. The missteps by Roberts and Obama on Tuesday shouldn’t be a major issue, especially with everything else we have to worry about.
*Here’s a scratchy recording of Johnson’s first Oath, administered on Air Force One in Dallas after President Kennedy’s assassination. The Oath was administered by Federal Judge Sarah T. Hughes, very likely making her the only woman ever to do so.
Turns out the music the quartet played just prior to Barack Obama’s swearing-in wasn’t live, but was taped, because it was too cold for the instruments to stay in tune.
Maybe they should have taped Chief Justice Roberts administering the Oath of Office, so they got that right, too.
(This is not coming from a Constitutional scholar, by any means, and I don’t think it’s a national crisis, I just thought it was interesting.)
There appears (to me, anyway) to be some contradictory or troubling language in the US Constitution about when a President’s term or powers actually begin, and it plays into the current rhubarb about Barack Obama’s botched-and-then-mulliganed swearing in.
Amendment XX to the Constitution (ratified in 1933) reads:
The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
(The copy of the Constitution I originally read before having a conversation with some co-workers today didn’t contain the part in italics, which I’ve added for emphasis.)
So CNN was correct when it put up a graphic at noon ET on Tuesday saying that, Constitutionally, Obama had become the 44th president when the ceremony ran late and he had yet to take the prescribed oath. (My man Dave Wasser told me tonight that should be it.)
However, Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution (part of the original document, written in 1787), says:
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.”
Again, emphasis mine. (EDIT: I just noticed in listening to some historic Oaths, that “So help me God” does not appear in the Constitutional language. I wonder who the first President to say that was?) Like I said, I’m not a Constitutional scholar and there are people who make their living interpreting what the Framers meant. It reads like he has to take the Oath of Office before he “enter on the Execution of his Office,” whatever that means.
Does that mean his term begins but he’s not signed, sealed and delivered until he takes the Oath? And if he doesn’t take the Oath exactly as written, is it invalid (not realistically or effectively, but Constitutionally)? Do his Wonder Twin powers not activate?
Both Obama (who was, understandably, a bit anxious – despite usually projecting almost preternatural cool) and Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed their lines. Obama “jumped his cue,” as we say in television, and that may have contributed to Roberts getting mixed up (this was his first time swearing in a President – William Rehnquist would have done the honors since Bush I in 1989).
Of course, this caused a bit of a hubub, so they re-did the ceremony Wednesday evening - some 31 hours after the inauguration – in the Map Room of the White House, with only some staff, four print reporters and a photographer present. Out of “an abundance of caution,” they said. Of course, the press corps wasn’t thrilled about that. (The religious right probably isn’t thrilled Obama didn’t use a Bible the second time around, either.)
Without going back and listening to as many Oaths of Office as are extant, I’m going to guess that somewhere along the line in the last 220+ years, someone else has gotten it not quite right. The republic is still standing.
While the language is kind of ambiguous, for all intents and purposes, we were not without a President for several minutes on Tuesday. (Did Joe Biden get sworn in before noon? I didn’t notice. Maybe we had two Vice Presidents briefly*.)
I just thought it was interesting. Make of it what you will.
*Insert your own marionette joke here.