Thursday, February 5, 2009

Whaaat did he say?

John Roberts was once the name of a prominent Subaru dealer in Austin, but now, it seems that he deals in Lexus. I'm usually not current in a wide variety of subjects.

On the twentieth day of the preceding month, a new President took the oath of office. On that day my wife and I sat before the TV, waiting to hear the oath it seems we'd waited for so very long.

I said to my wife, "You watch, that 'Subaru salesman' is going to flub his lines". I had meant it humorously, and had no idea what a comedy of errors I was actually predicting.

The oath is the only one prescribed specifically in the Constitution, and its wording is fairly simple.

"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."

Justice Roberts (not the Subaru salesman) had apparently practiced, and intended to administer the oath without a script, which, I feel would have been a nice gesture, if he'd only managed to remember the script.

The very first time that the oath was administered, the incoming President, George Washington, ad-libbed the words "so help me God" at the end. Certainly there should be nothing wrong with a man expressing his faith after making such a lofty commitment, and "so help me God" has been a custom ever since.

Since I've been following this for only a few years now, I cannot say how each individual oath was administered in years prior to 1988. I have taken offense, however, at the idea of the administering judge to coach the line. I had thought, before the inauguration, that this judge, appointed by George W. Bush, would "coach the line", therefore flubbing the oath. Was I in for a surprise, or NOT, when Justice Roberts began with, "I, Barack Hussein Obama.." then went on, to President Obama's confusion (he'd already been President for half an hour by this time), to get the wording mixed up, and he was followed closely by President Obama, who couldn't really decide what he should say.

Maybe, it was after being so careful to work in the words, "I, Barack Hussein Obama" for the incoming president to repeat after him, at the end he added the words, "so help you God", that really got my goat.

Maybe it's just that I'm a grumpy old man, who doesn't like the way the world is changing before my eyes, in directions I could never have imagined, but I really was chagrined by the fiasco that had involved so much preparation and expense. And then, I found that Justice Roberts and the President had a private do-over later, to get the oath administered in the correct manner. I did not witness that one, so I don't know if they did it right or not, but, Barack Hussein Obama is now our President, and for that, I'm grateful, and relieved.



Bruce said...

Ahhh, Willie, I share your gratefulness and relief. But that whole deal was a little weird, wasn't it.

Let's not forget Obama was one of 22 Senate Democrats to vote against Roberts' confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2005. And this was the first time a Supreme Court justice has sworn in a president who voted against him.... that might have added a little extra tension of the moment.

Willie C said...

You may be right, Bruce. I sort of thought maybe it was "stage fright", although it's hard to imagine such a characteristic in a Supreme Court Justice. I think it would have been better if he'd used a script. I think it's the normal way to do it, and much safer.

I was primarily commenting on the way that all judges since 1988, and probably even before, have coached the ad-lib line, "so help me God".

It was a very strong statement made by George Washington, which has influenced ALL official oaths for ever other government office.

I still think it should be improper for a judge to say "repeat after me", and then, at the end, say, "so help you God". I'd also think it was improper if he'd said "so help me God". That should be the oath taker's line.

If Obama's voting against Roberts' confirmation was indeed the source of tension, then I think it was wrong for Robers to have administered the oath in the first place.

Julie said...

Barack Hussain Obama is now our President, and for that, I'm grateful, and relieved as well.

Bruce said...

I agree Willie. The proclamation to a god of one's choice should be just that - one's choice - not prompted, or dictated, by a government oath giver.