Thursday, January 22, 2009

Historical Do Over

The 20th amendment states:
Section 1. 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.
When I was watching Yo-Yo Ma perform, as the clock struck noon, I wondered what that meant. Originally, the oath was to be administered at 11:56, so CBS was saying that since Obama hadn't received the oath yet, Vice President Biden was technically President. The XXth Amendment is pretty clear that, regardless of the timing, at Noon, Sen Obama became President Obama. You'll never hear anyone else mention it, but in reality, Chief Justice Roberts flubbed twice that day. Since it was ale=ready after noon, he should have looked up and stated "President Obama, are you ready"!Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8:
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."
So it's in quotes, so must be said word for word, right. Yet, it appears that Chief Justice Taft flubbed the oath administered to Hoover. In an unusual offering, Taft recited the entire offering, only requiring Hoover to say "I do". But in Taft's version, he said ""preserve, maintain and protect." instead of "preserve, protect, and defend".
In 1929 Chief Justice William Howard Taft administered the oath of office to Herbert Hoover. Taft had been a President. He’s the only President then to serve as Chief Justice to administer the oath of office to a President. But when Taft read the oath of office he made a mistake. In stead of asking Hoover to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution he said, “preserve, maintain and defend.” Well, it seemed to have just passed by, but this was broadcast on the radio. A 13 year old student heard this and she said that’s wrong. She had memorized the oath. She wrote Taft a letter. She said you goofed. He wrote her back and said you're quite right. In fact she said, you said “preserve, maintain and defend.” He said you’re right, I didn’t get it right, but I didn’t say it that way. I said, “preserve, maintain and protect.”

Well she was sure she was right, and sure enough, the news media checked their recordings and she was right and Taft was wrong twice.
Later, when concern was raised, Hoover figured no big deal and never retook it. Of course, Hoover didn't turn out to be the greatest administrator of the country, so maybe President Obama was concerned about Karma.

So here is my take. President Barack Obama assumed office, without an oath, automatically, at Noon Eastern Time on January 20th. However, he could not begin the EXECUTION of the office, until the oath was administered. There is precedent that the oath itself doesn't have to be perfectly recited so President Obama decided "out of an abundance of caution," to have a do over.

Clear as mud, right *laughing*


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