Flubbed lines, live viewing audiences and awkward pauses are more acceptable for train-wreck television than the swearing in of the president of the United States. After stumbling through their first attempt four years ago, President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts are taking no chances this time. According to Reuters, an inauguration official said that after Obama’s win in November, the two men exchanged a copy of an “oath card” with “the precise wording, punctuation, and emphasis of the 35-word recitation.”
They need to practice. During Obama’s historic swearing as the first African-American president in 2009, Roberts, who was reciting the oath from memory, said the word “faithfully” out of sequence. That word salad caused Obama to stumble, saying “that I will execute the Office of President of the United States faithfully.”
Under the Constitution, presidents must take a precise oath: “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.”
Oops. Roberts, mortified by the mistake, apologized to the president after the ceremony.
The mix-up raised questions about the legitimacy of the ceremony. Before the issue could gain momentum, the White House asked Justice Roberts to come to the White House for private do-over the following day. Both men nailed their lines, and the administration released an audio that confirmed the accuracy of the second performance.
For Obama’s second inauguration, they’ll get two more chances to get it right. Since Jan. 20, the constitutionally required date for taking the oath of office, falls on a Sunday, President Obama will be sworn in at the White House during a private ceremony–a dress rehearsal for the big show on Monday, when he will repeat the oath for the public ceremony and give an inaugural speech.
Obama, elected twice, will have taken the oath of office four times in total.