Sunday, January 20, 2013

To Chief Justice Roberts: Get it right this time

IT WAS history in the making four years ago: Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, the nation’s first African American chief executive. But like many historic moments, this one had a moment preceding it that was ready for the blooper reel.

If you watched the inaugural swearing-in ceremony in 2009 — the whole thing, not just the edited version — you remember what I’m talking about: a goof that snowballed, a moment in presidential history that’s still painful to watch:

We don’t wanna go there again. Ever.

Note to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts: The presidential oath of office is 35 words long, not counting the words for the person’s name and the optional post-oath codicil (“So help me God”). It goes as follows:

“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."

Please, Chief Justice Roberts, get it right. Bring notes if you must. Slide a 3x5 card up the sleeve of your judicial robe. Scribble it on your hand with a Sharpie. Have it jacked into your cerebellum like Neo in “The Matrix.” Do something. Anything. But get it right this time. We can’t have you up there stumbling and fumbling over a presidential oath not that much longer than a freakin’ tweet.

You’ve got two chances to nail this. The first one comes today, Sunday, Jan. 20, at noon, in the relative privacy of the Blue Room of the White House, on the constitutionally mandated date of inauguration. But the operative word there is “relative.” Even though the oath won’t be administered today in front of who knows how many hundreds of thousands of people in front of the Capitol, today's ceremony will be televised and live-streamed. Bottom line: You’ve got to stick the landing in the Blue Room.

◊ ◊ ◊

And for obvious reasons —like everyone on the planet tuning in to watch it live — you’ve really got to nail it on Monday, at the West Front of the Capitol.

Either way, there’s no do-overs.

You don’t want any asterisks about this next to your name in the history books. Get it right this time.

Need to get the game-day juices flowing? Maybe this’ll help: At the opening of every session of the Supreme Court, the Court Crier utters these words, from memory:

“Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court."

That’s two sentences, 41 words long.

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! If the Court Crier can get his oration right, so can you.

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