Friday, January 23, 2009


The moment captured in that photograph -- Chief Justice John Roberts administering the oath of office to Pres. Barack Obama for a second time -- has led to a chuckle or two (and a bit of eye-rolling).

On Inauguration Day, Chief Justice Roberts famously flubbed the oath. Since the Constitution prescribes that the term of the outgoing President ends at noon on the 20th of January, the President-elect assumed the nation's highest office at that stroke anyway.

So as a matter of constitutional law -- thanks to the 20th Amendment, which was ratified in 1933 -- the oath of office is ceremonially inspiring but legally moot.

Conspiracy junkies seldom are deterred by facts, however, and the caterwauling commenced with the Chief Justice's first stumble. Here are but three examples of how some of our fellow citizens "think":

"Obama's inauguration day was rendered legally void by the failure to recite the constitutionally decreed oath of office. Obama's refusal to recite the oath was thinly and incompetently masked by a staged flub by the judge administering the oath. As a result, Obama failed yet ANOTHER constitutional requirement for the office of the Presidency."

"The oath was NOT spoken EXACTLY as written in the Constitution, the inauguration is invalid and hence Obama is NOT the real president!"

"I have to say I'm not sure Barack Obama really is the President of the United States because the oath of office is set in the Constitution and I wasn't at all convinced that even after he tried to amend it that John Roberts ever got it out straight and that Barack Obama ever said the prescribed words. I suspect that everybody is going to forgive him and allow him to take over as president, but I'm not sure he actually said what's in the Constitution, there."

If you're sure that this kind of ignorance is confined to the blogosphere and free-for-all forums, by the way, guess again -- that last quote belongs to perennially challenged Chris Wallace of right-tilting FOX News.

"Forgive him and allow him to take over as president" -- really? Well, Chris, as long as it's ok with you...

White House Counsel Greg Craig advised that it'd be a good idea to take the oath again, "out of an abundance of caution." And so the president did, on Wednesday evening, thus the photo.

But the howling didn't end there. Typical:

"He may have said the right words the second time, but did you notice that he didn't swear on a Bible? This abomination may be your president, but he isn't mine."
I guess these people got bored with the whole fringe-on-the-flag thing. Or maybe they grew tired of talking about all those scary coins that China is warehousing. In any case, so it goes.

You can't fix stupid.

In addition to a still photo of Oath: Take Two, there's an audio recording -- no video. The re-do was arranged in a relative hurry, and administration officials pulled in only a handful of print reporters and a White House photographer.

Seems reasonable to me, considering, but the television networks went indignantly ballistic. This is what CNN's Ed Henry had to
say about the perceived snub:

"(Pres. Obama) began the day pushing for more transparency in government, only to end it by keeping TV cameras out when Chief Justice John Roberts re-administered the oath of the presidency."

"So the whole point of the ceremony -- getting the word out there that the president was in fact inaugurated -- was undermined by the fact that now there's no videotape to prove he was sworn in.

"Not to mention that it may run counter to the main message the president was trying to deliver Wednesday with his executive order pushing for more openness in government."

(Translation: Anything not recorded on video didn't really happen.)

Looks to me like someone needs to learn the difference between transparency and unrestricted access. Not disclosing the second oath would've broken the promise of transparency; choosing not to stage a grand, made-for-TV event did not.

Get over yourselves, please, and move the hell on.

* * *
One example of Obama-Biden's transparency is the Agenda section of the White House website. That's both good news and bad.

Buried in "Urban Policy" under "Crime and Law Enforcement" are ominous anti-Second Amendment promises:

Address Gun Violence in Cities: Obama and Biden would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.
I saw this same language on the campaign and transition websites. I wasn't ok with it then, and I'm not ok with it now -- any of it.

First, the Tiahrt Amendment must remain in place. Releasing the information serves no useful purpose, and law-abiding gun owners know that very few guns are used in the commission of crimes. Most important, the confidentiality of gun-ownership information has been eroded too far already -- no more.

Second, as we've seen in Obama-Biden's support of the District of Columbia's onerous regulations, "commonsense measures" effectively would prohibit the practical defensive use of firearms -- no thanks.

The "gun show loophole" is a myth -- no loophole exists.

As for "making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent," gun owners will resist any measure that seeks to return us to the dark days of the Clinton (nee Biden) Gun Ban -- no way.

Americans have cause to be optimistic, generally, about some of the "change" that the new administration will bring. Law-abiding gun owners, unfortunately, have good reason to be pessimistic.