Obama Retakes Oath Of Office

President Barack Obama has retaken the oath of office after his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday didn't go as smoothly as planned. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to the president in front of reporters. On Tuesday, Roberts flubbed his lines while leading Obama in the 35-word oath.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Today at the White House, a historic do over. At yesterday's inauguration, we witnessed two super high-powered Harvard Law graduates, the president and the chief justice, manage to muff the oath of office. First, there was the simple case of missed cues.

(Soundbite of swearing-in ceremony)

Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTS (Supreme Court of the United States): I, Barack Hussein Obama...

President-Elect Barack OBAMA: I, Barack...

Chief Justice ROBERTS: Do solemnly swear.

President-Elect OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear.

SIEGEL: And then, there was this.

(Soundbite of swearing-in ceremony)

Chief Justice ROBERTS: That I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully...

President-Elect OBAMA: That I will execute...

Chief Justice Roberts: Faithfully the office of president of the United States...

President-Elect OBAMA: The office of president of the United States faithfully...

SIEGEL: President to the United States or to the faithfully United States? Not a thing of beauty, that oath, and a handful of law professors said, redo it. And after dismissing that idea, the Obama White House went ahead and did precisely that. NPR's Scott Horsley is at the White House. Scott, what did they do?

SCOTT HORSLEY: Robert, it was a much smaller crowd that witnessed...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HORSLEY: The second...

SIEGEL: I bet there was, yes.

HORSLEY: Recitation of the oath, but they got to hear it the way it is prescribed by the Constitution, and that, in the end, was why the Obama administration decided to do this. They continue to say that they believe that the oath was administered appropriately yesterday, in front of hundreds of thousands in person and of course, a television audience many times that size. You don't want to tell all those folks that what they were watching was a dress rehearsal.

But because the oath is spelled out explicitly in the Constitution itself, in an abundance of caution, Chief Justice Roberts came here to the White House, and here in the Map Room, in front of a small group of reporters, he once again administered the oath to President Obama And this time, they got it right.

SIEGEL: Now, I thought that the president becomes president at noon on January the 20th according to the Constitution, and this business of the oath being defective was just nonsense, according to some.

HORSLEY: Yes, I've been getting a lot of emails from Constitutional scholars about what's in Article Two of the Constitution and what the amendments spell out. And I guess that's the kind of thing that academic lawyers like to argue about.

SIEGEL: Well, this is a bit reminiscent - I mean, the idea that, in an abundance of caution, the White House went ahead and redid the oath of office and brought the chief justice back over. To me, it's a bit reminiscent of that lawsuit that was brought against Barack Obama's eligibility for the presidency, claiming that he wasn't actually born in Hawaii, that he was born in Indonesia. It seems like one of those things that you just don't want to have that kind of lawsuit being litigated.

HORSLEY: It reminded Press Secretary Robert Gibbs of that very thing, too. He was joking about this this morning, and said, you know, we have the birth certificate if you want to see it.

This evening, Chief Justice Roberts said to Barack Obama, are you ready to take the oath? And Obama replied, I am, and we're going to do it very slowly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: And this was after Gibbs had dismissed the idea of doing it over again and after Vice President Biden had made a joke about it when they were swearing in senior White House staff today.

HORSLEY: That's right. The Vice President was taking no chances. He said his memory is not as good as the chief justice's, and so he read the oath for the senior staffers off of a piece of paper.

SIEGEL: OK, the bottom line is Chief Justice Roberts went to the White House today, and I gather, in the Map Room, re-administered the oath, this time properly, to President Obama so no one can say the he did not swear to the actual Constitution oath of office

HORSLEY: And there was a smattering of applause, after which the president joked with reporters that now they have to go to 12 more inaugural balls.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: NPR's Scott Horsley at the White House. Thanks a lot.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you.

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