Roberts blows it
While I’ve avoided the inaugural event entirely, a friend just played for me over the phone Chief Justice Roberts’s staggering, mind-blowing screw-up of the presidential oath. I’ve never heard anything so bad, so embarrassing. What a thing to do to a new president, at the historic moment of his swearing in! I said to my friend, “Roberts should go shoot himself.” I don’t literally mean it, of course, but that was my reaction.
I Do Solemnly Swear…(Line, Please?)If I had been in Obama’s shoes, once Roberts had clearly wandered off into his private dyslexia land and was ruining the greatest moment of my life, I would have turned away from Roberts, faced the crowd, and recited the oath of office by myself:
“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.”
There is no need to have someone recite the oath, as though a president doesn’t have the intelligence to remember a 35 word sentence.
Alternatively, and more realistically, Roberts and Obama, once they realized they had botched it, should simply have said, “Let’s start that over from the beginning,” and done a clean job of it.
But getting the words wrong wasn’t the only problem. The two men apparently did not rehearse the oath together beforehand, so that Obama would know where in the oath Roberts would pause; and that’s how Roberts first got confused, when Obama began speaking over him before Roberts had paused. So the failure to rehearse is certainly Obama’s fault. However, Obama handled that first flub well; he paused, waited for Roberts to finish, and then re-said his own line from the start. From that point it might have gone ok. But instead there then came Robert’s astonishing re-writing of the oath, so that the words, “that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States,” became, “that I will execute the office of President to the United States faithfully.” Obama was understandably thrown, and, after saying “I will execute,” sensing the missing word “faithfully,” paused. If he had really known the words and was quick enough, he might have recovered from Roberts’s wrong recitation and just given the words correctly. That didn’t happen. Then, after Obama paused, Roberts, instead of righting himself, went completely over the cliff, starting the troublesome clause over again, getting it wrong, stopping, starting again, leaving words out, so that the sentence never got recited correctly and the “faithfully” remained at the end of the clause. So Roberts didn’t screw up once, or even twice, he screwed up about five times in a row.
And even the jumbled opening of the oath, with the two talking over each other, was not the beginning of Roberts’s problems. Even before the oath began, he struck a wrong note addressing Obama as “Senator.” Everyone knows he’s no longer a senator. Now it’s possible the two agreed on the honorific beforehand, as due to a former senator, but still, it sounded odd. Also ominous, if you listen to Roberts’s voice when he says, “Are you ready to take the oath of office, Senator”? his voice goes strangely high on the word “Senator” and you sense that something is not right with him. I wonder if Roberts has a neurological disorder or is on drugs or something.
Thus the moment of the swearing in, that magical-historical moment of transition when a man becomes president, the moment that is ordinarily played and replayed over and over in documentaries and newscasts about a president, and, even more in this case, the super-historical moment of the first nonwhite becoming president, and thus for liberals the greatest moment of transition in the history of the world, was turned into a painful embarrassment by Roberts’s astonishing mangling of the words of the oath. So the moment is lost to history. The tape of Obama taking the oath, which otherwise would have been played ten million times on televison in the years to come, will never be played, because it’s too painful.
I can imagine that Obama is so angry at Roberts he will never want to set eyes on him again. If I had done what Roberts had done, I don’t know how I would ever get over it. But today’s elite are so in love with themselves it probably rolled right off Roberts’s back.
However, based on Joseph Lowery’s resentful, anti-white closing prayer at the inaugural proceedings, I no longer feel bad about Obama’s ruined oath-taking. Instead of seeming like a painful, terrible foul-up that should never have happened, it feels like justice—justice, delivered inadvertently by the Chief Justice himself, as though some force outside himself were making the normally ultra-smooth Roberts screw up as he’s never screwed up before in his life.
George Washington in his first inaugural address spoke of Providence as “that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations.” Maybe, in matters big and small, in ways tragic and ways playfully mischievous, in ways we normally do not see and do not understand, he’s presiding there still.
Paul Cella writes:
All of that is well said.Virginia writes:
Maybe Roberts had problems because of wondering if Obama really is constitutionally eligible to be president.Sam H. writes from the Netherlands:
Good stuff.Mark P. writes:
Does this signify an implied Constitutional court resistance to Obama?January 21
Irwin Graulich writes:
Excellent commentary on Roberts. I never liked him and always thought he was a liberal hiding in a conservative gown. The errors he made during the swearing in ceremony do not surprise me. This is typical of many of those Harvard guys who think they are just too smart to write anything down because their “superior brains” can memorize everything. Roberts should publicly apologize to the country and to Obama.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 20, 2009 02:23 PM | Send