Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Moron Report #28: Chief Justice Roberts

Just in time for the inauguration, our esteemed Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, the honorable John Roberts, was attacked and possessed by the departing intellect of George W. Bush. Of course, I am certain it is a total coincidence that then-Senator Obama voted against the confirmation of Justice Roberts. Congratulations, Johnny, welcome to my hall of shame.

A Few Rough Patches for a Presidential Oath

Published: January 20, 2009

For a couple of smooth-talking constitutional experts, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and President Obama had a hard time getting through the constitutional oath of office.

There was a false start by Mr. Obama, who started to respond before Chief Justice Roberts had completed the first phrase. Mr. Obama ended up saying the first two words — “I, Barack” — twice.

Then there was an awkward pause after Chief Justice Roberts prompted Mr. Obama with these words: “That I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully.” The chief justice seemed to say “to” rather than “of,” but that was not the main problem. The main problem was that the word “faithfully” had floated upstream in the constitutional text, which actually says this: “That I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.”

Mr. Obama seemed to realize this, pausing quizzically after saying, “that I will execute.”

Chief Justice Roberts gave it another try, getting closer but still not quite right with this: “Faithfully the office of president of the United States.” He omitted the word “execute.”

Mr. Obama now repeated the chief justice’s error of putting “faithfully” at the end and said, “The office of president of the United States faithfully.”

From there, smooth sailing.

It is academic to argue about what the failure to utter the words in the precise order required by the Constitution means. Who would have standing to raise the argument that Mr. Obama had not become president as a consequence?

There is, in any event, no rule against a do-over. When questions were raised about whether Calvin Coolidge, in 1923 after Warren G. Harding died, should have been sworn in by his father, a notary public, he took the oath again from a federal judge.

As they say, seeing is believing (for those who were hiding under a rock yesterday or working away under a Republican boss).

Seriously, John, how hard can the oath be? After all, it is in our Constitution (Article II, Section 1, Clause 8, for those of you keeping score). You are the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, an ex-federal judge, lawyer, Ivy League school graduate (of course, by the same token, so is George W. Bush). Is this what happens to people's brains when they start to think that Roger B. Taney was right after all?

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