Commentary: Obama knows how to stay clear of trouble

The Rock Hill HeraldJanuary 23, 2009 

Barack Obama has demonstrated an uncanny aptitude for putting the lid on potential trouble and keeping it from blowing up in his face.

Take, for example, the flubbed oath of office at Tuesday's inauguration. It appeared that Chief Justice John Roberts, who was administering the oath, was responsible. He put the word "faithfully" in the wrong place, and Obama, after pausing for a second, repeated the mistake.

It was no big deal. Historians immediately recounted how other presidents and vice presidents had fouled up the oath. They also noted that Obama became the 44th president at noon Tuesday, as mandated by the Constitution, with or without the oath.

But Obama and his legal advisers must have seen storm clouds. The right-wing bloviators wasted no time in casting doubts on the legitimacy of Obama's presidency because of the jumbled oath. Chris Wallace of Fox News said after the inauguration that he wasn't sure Obama was actually our president.

Solution? Invite the chief justice over to the White House for a do-over. Roberts, decked out in his official black robes, readministered the oath – correctly this time – in front of a few reporters, and that was that. It took 25 seconds. Problem solved.

We shouldn't read too much into the incident. White House counsel Greg Craig admitted after the oath was readministered that they had acted "out of an abundance of caution."

But Obama might have responded differently. He might have brushed off the flubbed oath as irrelevant. The issue might have festered, and bloggers might have spent the next four years debating whether Obama actually was entitled to sit in the Oval Office.

Instead, the problem was nullified before it had a chance to morph into something bigger.

To read the complete column, visit The Rock Hill Herald.

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