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Oath may need a replay

Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath to Barack Obama. Mistakes made during the oath may lead the men to repeat the ceremony on a smaller stage.

Associated Press

Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath to Barack Obama. Mistakes made during the oath may lead the men to repeat the ceremony on a smaller stage.

WASHINGTON — The presidential oath of office is required of a new president before he can execute his powers, and the Constitution is clear that its 35 words must be spoken exactly.

Which is what makes the oath President Obama took Tuesday before a watching world so interesting. It might be that they didn't actually witness Obama being sworn in.

Because of a noticeable gaffe by Chief Justice John Roberts, Obama transposed the words. He should have said he will "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States" but instead said he will "execute the Office of President of the United States faithfully."

Constitutional law experts agree that the flub is insignificant. Yet two previous presidents — Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur — repeated the oath privately because of similar issues.

Lawyers said Obama and his supporters need not be worried about the legitimacy of his presidency, but they said a do-over couldn't hurt. Charles Cooper, head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel under President Ronald Reagan, said that the oath is mandatory, that an incorrect recitation should be fixed and that he would be surprised if the oath hadn't already been re-administered.

Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, was hosting an inauguration party at his home in McLean, Va., Tuesday and did a mock swearing-in of 35 children. When Roberts erred, one child shouted: "That's not right!"

"He should probably go ahead and take the oath again," Turley said. "If he doesn't, there are going to be people who for the next four years are going to argue that he didn't meet the constitutional standard. I don't think it's necessary, and it's not a constitutional crisis. This is the chief justice's version of a wardrobe malfunction."

Obama halts all regulations, will meet with war council

One of President Obama's first acts was to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated, in a memorandum signed by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama's White House.

Also, Obama's promise to end the war in Iraq will be on the agenda today when he meets with top national security aides and senior commanders.

Obama summoned his defense secretary, Robert Gates, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to the White House, along with other members of his National Security Council, to discuss a way ahead in the war, the Associated Press reported, citing two senior military officers it did not name. The AP said the officers spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House had not announced the meeting.

During his campaign, Obama said he intended to withdraw all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months, although it was not clear whether the president would issue a hard-and-fast order to end the war on that specific time line.

Six Cabinet posts confirmed, but Clinton vote postponed

The Senate swiftly approved six members of Obama's Cabinet, but put off for a day the vote on his choice of Hillary Rodham Clinton to be secretary of state.

The Senate confirmed all six with a single voice vote a little more than three hours after Obama took office.

Clinton's nomination was sidetracked when one senator, John Cornyn, R-Texas, objected to the unanimous vote. Cornyn said he still had concerns about foreign donations to the foundation headed by Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Those confirmed were Steven Chu to be energy secretary, Arne Duncan at education, Janet Napolitano for homeland security, Eric Shinseki to head veterans affairs, Ken Salazar for interior and Tom Vilsack for agriculture.

Senate leaders agreed to have a roll call vote on Clinton today after three hours of debate. Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, predicted that "she will receive overwhelming bipartisan support at that time."

Pending Clinton's confirmation, the State Department's third-ranking official, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, will serve as acting secretary of state.

Other Cabinet members who were not immediately confirmed include attorney general nominee Eric Holder, health and human services nominee Tom Daschle, and Timothy Geithner, the nominee to head the Treasury Department, who must explain his failure to pay payroll taxes.

For security details, threat keeps the tension high

The swearing-in of Barack Obama came off without a security-related hitch Tuesday, but federal authorities were intensively investigating a report that a group of Somalia-based militants wanted to launch some kind of inauguration-related attack.

Their biggest white-knuckle moment: when the new president and first lady exited their heavily fortified limousine and walked along stretches of Pennsylvania Avenue.

As they strolled, government countersnipers patrolled the rooftops overhead and hyperalert Secret Service fanned out around them, scouring parade viewers for the glint of a handgun or some other kind of weapon.

One federal law enforcement official said the threat involved individuals affiliated with al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist extremist group that is active in Somalia. In recent years, U.S. authorities have become concerned that U.S.-based Somalians are traveling to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab and other extremists there against U.S. ally Ethiopia.

Near-tragedy closes station

A 68-year-old woman who fell onto subway tracks in Washington narrowly escaped an oncoming train by squeezing into a small space underneath a platform, authorities said.

As a train was fast approaching, the woman was trying to get a lift onto the platform, but there wasn't enough time. So Houston police officer Eliot Swainson told the woman to squeeze into the space under the platform.

After the train left the Gallery Place Metro Station, Swainson safely pulled the woman up onto the platform. The unidentified woman dislocated her shoulder.

Metro closed the Gallery Place and another station for nearly an hour while authorities investigated. The closure forced people to walk farther to reach the National Mall.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, more than 930,000 passengers had used Metrorail, breaking Monday's record of nearly 887,000.

Information from Associated Press, Washington Post, Lost Angeles Times and Cox News Service was used in this report.

The Florida delegation

Attended: U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson; Gov. Charlie Crist; CFO Alex Sink; U.S. Reps. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville; John Mica, R-Winter Park; Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala; Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville; Kathy Castor, D-Tampa; Jeff Miller, R-Chumukla, Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami; Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach; Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville; Kendrick Meek, D-Miami; Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton; Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores; Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, Alcee Hastings, D-Miami, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston; Allen Boyd, D-Monticello; Gus Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs; Tom Rooney, R-Stuart; Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers.

Did not attend: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami.

Did not respond: U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando; Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota; Bill Posey, R-Melbourne; Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.

Oath may need a replay 01/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 10:52pm]
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