WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Obama retook his oath of office Wednesday after Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed while delivering it at Tuesday’s inauguration.
The second oath — also administered by Roberts — took place at 7:35 p.m. Wednesday in the White House’s Map Room. Roberts asked Obama whether he was ready.
“I am, and we’re going to do it very slowly,” Obama replied.
The do-over was aimed at dispelling any confusion that might arise from Tuesday’s take — in which “faithfully” was said out of sequence — and erase any question that Obama is legally the president.
However, per the Constitution, Obama became president at noon Tuesday without taking the oath.
Here is an interesting conundrum … Section 1 of the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution states:
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.
But Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution states:
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.”
Now, I wondered yesterday if for the 8 minutes between the time that President Bush’s term expired at noon, and the time that President Obama took the Oath of Office, we were officially without a President. Now, based on the 20th Amendment, Barack Obama was officially the President (or rather his term had officially begun … but based on my reading of Article 2, Section 1, it appears that for at least that 8 minutes, he was without any powers to ACT as president, since he had not yet taken the Oath allowing him to execute his office.
And in a strictly literal sense, since the original Oath was flubbed, this could mean that until Chief Justice Robert re-administered the Oath this evening at 7:35pm ET, that President Obama was without the power for the entire afternoon yesterday and all day today, potentially rendering any Executive Orders and other items of business conducted non-legal.
In reality, if challenged, I think this one of those situations where any Court would look at the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
But it’s still an interesting intellectual exercise.