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Has Obama legally assumed as U.S. president?

Was Chris Wallace jesting when he commented that "I'm not sure if Barrack Obama really is the President of the United States" because, he said, Obama garbled the oath during the inauguration? Regardless, the cable anchor's remarks prompted a storm of controversy -- at least online.
Taken in LA during the early part of the presidential campaign

Wallace was referring to a supposed boo-boo in Chief Justice John Roberts and Obama's delivery of the presidential oath of office. NBC, ABC assigned the mistake to Roberts' while the AP had it on Obama.

Blogger David Knowles of Political Machine said: "It was at 12:05 that an understandably nervous
Chief Justice John Roberts (and then Obama after him) flubbed the oath of office and on the basis that the actual words that symbolically bestow the title of commander-in-chief upon that man or woman who says them, some are claiming that Obama might not technically be our president."

"Who," Knowles asked, "would be so unclear as to the ways of the Constitution to suggest such a silly thing?"

Judging from responses, there indeed are people making an issue of the so-called adverbial misplacement of "faithfully" in the oath. Perhaps the two persons primarily involved were merely nervous at the immensity of the occasion thus inadvertently fumbling in the delivery. However, considering the heated national process to elect a president in the recent past, it may be understandable that political animosities would rekindle, seize on perceived issues of conflict and rancorous words exchanged. Additionally, innuendos are raised concerning the fact that Roberts and Obama have different affiliations and that the later, while a senator, did not vote for Roberts' confirmation as Supreme Court chief justice.

As earlier noted, the sticking point of what could best be described as "tempest on a teacup" was over the placement of the adverb "faithfully". It may also be noted that during the same ceremony the word "of" was initially changed into "to" in the phrase "president of the United States".

The following is from a 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…

The wordings in the Constitution are as follows:

"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."

In addition to what Wallace described as a garbled oath, thrown into the mix of the controversy is the question of whether, oath or no oath, Obama can become the new president of this country. In other words, while the Constitution provides that those who would be president must take the oath, would omitting the same prevent an elected president to assume the position?

It is held that this question is moot because the Constitution also provides that the term of President Bush lapsed after 12 noon of that day and that Obama automatically became the new president. As a matter of fact at the time Roberts administered the oath, Obama had been president for some 5 minutes.

Regarding the subject of inaccuracy in delivering the oath, it was also pointed out that Chief Justice William Howard Taft, who later became president, also flubbed the oath when swearing in Herbert Hoover as president in 1929 when he said, "preserve, maintain and defend the Constitution," instead of "preserve, PROTECT, and defend the Constitution." In that case CJ Taft substituted an entirely new word to the oath.

NOTE: The controversy portrayed here has been overtaken by subsequent events that saw Obama and Roberts doing a reprise of the flubbed oath. This time all went well. Just goes to show practice makes perfect. :)

Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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