A fairly straightforward affair, the oath is only 34 words and takes all of 30 seconds to recite. But that didn't stop both president-elect Barack Obama and chief justice John Roberts making mincemeat out of it in 2008. Several lawyers were of the view that that he should take the oath again to ensure there was no challenge to the legitimacy of his presidency. (Given the bizarrely resilient "birther" meme, and the more recent calls for Obama's impeachment due to his stance on gun control, it is probably a good thing he did.)http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-22/d ... on/4477656
This time around the words flowed well enough, but the president still had to do it twice. As January 20, the constitutionally mandated day for beginning of the presidential term, fell on a Sunday this year (and Sundays are apparently not good for day-long celebrations), Obama gave the oath twice, the "real" one in a private ceremony on Sunday and a second one for the rest of us earlier today, Australian time.
There aren't too many ways for a president to send any signals with the way he recites the oath. The words are pre-ordained (though in 2009 and 2013, Obama, like most presidents, did add "so help me God"), and convention dictates the individual who will administer it (the chief justice of the Supreme Court).
One way to make your mark is with the Bible you use, and here, Obama excelled in both inaugurations. In 2009, he swore on the Bible that Abraham Lincoln had used in 1861, sending a powerfully symbolic message. It was both a nod to the president he wished to emulate and a tribute to the presidency without which an African-American could not have been elected to America's highest office almost 150 years later.
This year, in the second recitation, Obama doubled down on such potent symbolism with a two-Bible oath: the 1861 Lincoln Bible and that owned by slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, on whose public holiday the 2013 public ceremony falls. (For the first swearing in, Obama used his wife Michelle's grandmother's bible.)
Obama isn't the first president to use a previous president's Bible but, perhaps surprisingly, he is the only one to have chosen Lincoln's. George Washington's has been used in three inaugurations other than his own: Warren G Harding's, Jimmy Carter's and George HW Bush's, which took place on the 200th anniversary of Washington's swearing in.
Obama is also not the first president to use two Bibles. Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, all doubled up. While in both inaugurations Obama chose closed Bibles, many presidents have sworn on a Bible open to a particular verse. John Quincy Adams is the only president we know of who did not use a Bible. He used a law book instead.
He used a law book
? Is that legal?