Thursday, January 22, 2009

For once and for all, Obama has been president since his first swing at the oath of office on Tuesday...


I want to settle this once and for all since my favorite source of news, Stephen Colbert, messed it up. I'm seeing news figures like Colbert and the unfunny ones mess this up since Tuesday.

First, we need to be clear on one point. Yes, he did need to take the oath. The Constitution requires it, period. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states:

Before he enters 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."

That should settle it. The Constitution says it and that has not been superseded by any of the amendments.

Second, Obama retook the oath because it was prudent, although entirely unnecessary. It eliminates distracting discussion. There is no place in the Constitution that says his election is invalid because he didn't get it perfect the first time. He got it perfect the second time. Case closed.

Third, the Constitution does not specify that a Bible must be used in the ceremony. Obama didn't use one the second time around and it doesn't matter. He didn't need to use one. Lyndon Johnson, perhaps in haste, took the oath with his hand on a Roman missal upon the death of John F. Kennedy. A Roman missal isn't even considered a sacred book by Catholics. Nevertheless, Johnson was president.

twentieth amendment section 1.jpg

Fourth, and this is where Colbert blew it and prompted this entry. There is no place in the Constitution that indicates a time when the President-elect poofs and becomes President. The oft misquoted twentieth amendment specifies the end of a presidential term, not the beginning of one. If you don't understand this, go back and reread my first point.

Fifth, and don't underestimate the importance of this, Obama is not the first president to have a do over of the oath. Both Chester A. Arthur and Calvin Coolidge repeated the oath after the first taking. Both of these men were our president during their term of office.

Did Obama mess up the oath the first time? Yes.
Did it prevent Obama from assuming the presidency? No.
Did he get the oath right the second time? Yes.
Did he legally need to retake the oath? No.
Was retaking the oath the right move? Yes.
Did he need a bible for the do over? No.

Barack Obama is the sitting president of the United States. He has been since he flubbed the oath a minute or so after noon on Tuesday. Now get over it.

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