The recently concluded inauguration was a massive display of the best aspects of American democracy in action. We elected the first African-American in history when just a few decades ago many of his spiritual forebearers couldn't even vote. So on the first day of this new era in history, what is the blogosphere obsessed with? John Roberts and President Obama fumbling through the oath of office.
I'm going to let you find your own transcription of what transpired. They are literally everywhere. What's more fascinating is the Zapruder-like (admittedly never a good adjective when discussing presidential events) intensity of the over-analysis.
I made my own contribution on the issue on the Achenblog where I made this observation:
I am certain that somewhere a wingnut lawyer is preparing a brief claiming that since Obama did not say the words correctly, he isn't really the President. At the same time, there are people furiously blogging that it was a plot by Roberts to make Obama look inarticulate.The great thing about aiming low with your expectations is that you are never disappointed. The first part of my prediction came true nearly instantly as Fox News rose to the occasion (via the LA Times).
"Well, again, we're wondering here whether or not Barack Obama in fact is the president of the United States," Chris Wallace told Fox News viewers, well over an hour after Obama had taken the oath of office today.The problem is that all the wingnuts willing to take on such a suit are still working on their appeals to have Obama declared a foreign citizen ineligible for office, which would make the transposed oath a moot point.
Fox News replayed the swearing-in moment when President Obama and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. each bobbled the words to the constitutional oath. "They had a kind of garbled oath," Wallace said.
"It's just conceivable that this will end up going to the courts," Wallace speculated.
As for the more conspiratorial part of my hypothesis, this guy in the comments of an ABCNews blog expanded on it far more thoroughly than I could ever hope to:
Roberts sabotaged this historic moment on purpose. Since the first sound recording of a U.S. presidential inauguration, has the CJ ever flubbed the oath before? Roberts is a dyed-in-the-wool partisan and it is no surprise that he would inject a mistake into the oath so that video and sound recordings of this great moment in American history would be marred. This is classic "rat-f*cking" in the grand tradition of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Atwater and Rove. Of course, video of the swearing in will now be unusable in the President's re-election campaign in 2012. It is sad. Roberts displayed his own racism today. Honest Americans should remember this in the future when they vote for their Senators. We need the Senate to approve Justices to the Supreme Court who serve justice, not partisan dirty tricks.This rant would easily be dismissed as whatever the opposite of wingnuttery is if eight years of cynical PR posturing hadn't made it plausible.
For the record, I have no doubt that Robert's flub was an honest nervous mistake made by a brilliant legal scholar with a subconscious prejudice against split infinitives. It does, however, call into question his credentials as a strict constructionist.
Astoundingly, more than one right wing blogger was quick with the YouTube clips of Dubya's inaugurations to prove that Bush was more eloquent than Obama. That gambit, my friend, is pure unadulterated chutzpah.
Note that Rehnquist in all his finest savoyardian frippery paused after the name, which Roberts didn't. I think that is where the whole rhythm of the oath got thrown off. Roberts has already apologized but the conspiratorial-minded point out that Obama as senator voted against Roberts.
It's just fascinating that what is just a minor gaffe can be run so quickly through the partisan filter to score quick points. Even Little Green Footballs absolves Obama of any blame, but somewhere the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is opening one sleepy eye waiting to spring into action. I love politics as theater and it is going to be an very entertaining next four years.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: What was your favorite part of the inauguration?
Update (1/21/09 9:10 EST): Barack and Roberts did it again and got it right this time.