Chief justice leads Obama astray on oath

Associated Press / January 21, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stumbled slightly - but noticeably - over the 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office as he swore in Barack Obama yesterday, sending the new president into a verbal detour of his own.

"Are you prepared to take the oath, senator?" Roberts asked Obama, who was holding the Bible that Abraham Lincoln used the day he became president in 1861.

The swearing in began simply enough as Roberts started reciting the oath Obama was to repeat, a few words at a time.

"I, Barack Hussein Obama . . .," began Roberts.

"I, Barack . . .," said Obama, and before he could continue, Roberts said, ". . . do solemnly swear . . . "

Obama: "I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear . . ."

Roberts: " . . . that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully . . ."

Obama: ". . . that I will execute . . ."

Roberts: ". . . faithfully execute the office of president of the United States . . ."

Obama: ". . . the office of president of the United States faithfully . . ."

At that point, Roberts got back on course, leading as Obama followed with "and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

"So help you God?" asked Roberts.

"So help me God," Obama ended.

It was the first inauguration for Roberts, the youngest chief justice in more than 200 years. Later, as he and Obama chatted briefly before lunch in the Capitol, Roberts appeared to take responsibility for the error.

Obama was one of 22 Senate Democrats to vote against Roberts's confirmation in 2005 - the first time a Supreme Court justice has sworn in a president who had voted against him.

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