The chief justice and the new president fox-trot all over the oath of office.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Jan. 20 2009 2:42 PM

John Roberts, Fallible

The chief justice and the new president fox-trot all over the oath of office.

See all of Slate's inauguration coverage.

It's not just that the unflappable chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court mangled the oath of office this morning. Even before that happened, President Barack Obama was stepping all over the chief's lines. Between both of them trying to lead, and both graciously attempting to follow, it was a performance worthy of the very first round of Dancing With the Stars. Let's go to the tape:

The oath is supposed to go as follows:

Dahlia Lithwick Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate

I (name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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.

Most presidents traditionally add the words So help me God at the end, as did Obama.

Here's how it went down today:

ROBERTS: (working without a text, and also without an overcoat): Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?

OBAMA: I am.

ROBERTS: I Barack Hussein Obama ...

OBAMA: (interrupting) I Barack  ...

ROBERTS: Do solemnly swear ...

OBAMA:  I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear ...

ROBERTS: That I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully...

OBAMA: That I will execute ... (pauses, smiles, waits for Roberts to put "faithfully" in correct spot)

ROBERTS: ... The off ... faithfully the pres ... the office of president of the United States...

OBAMA: The office of president of the United States, faithfully ... (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em)

ROBERTS: And will to the best of my ability ...

OBAMA: And will to [the] best of my ability ...

ROBERTS:  Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

OBAMA: Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

ROBERTS: So help you God?

OBAMA: So help me God.

ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

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