Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Cynic: Obama Calls Do-Over

Following Chief Justice John Roberts’ bungling of the presidential oath of office on Tuesday, President Barack Obama surprised legal scholars yesterday by invoking the rarely-used Constitutional "do-over" rule and took the oath again. Obama’s move ensures his position in the Oval Office after some right-wing critics of the new president had wondered if his misstated oath meant Obama wasn’t really the president.

The first successful presidential do-over in 75 years

“While my legal team told me we were still on solid legal ground,” the new president said, “my hoops buddies said it would be best to play it safe and just call a do-over. This time the Chief Justice didn’t screw it up.”

The Chief Justice took full responsibility for the gaffe on Inauguration Day, in which he bungled the oath of office. “Yep, my bad,” said Roberts. He was quick to point out, however, the misstated oath held no legal bearing.

“The 20th Amendment says that the new president’s term, oath or no oath, officially begins at noon on January 20th. So even with my slip-up, he was still the president.” However, Roberts said that, because he administered the oath, which is spelled out in Article II of the Constitution, incorrectly, “the president and I thought it would be best to do it again, just to be on the safe side.” When pressed on the Constitutional legality of the “do-over” clause, Roberts said, “It’s in there. Article V or VI, maybe. Somewhere toward the back.”

Most constitutional scholars said Obama’s move, while probably unnecessary, was a good use of the do-over rule. “One time I got a hit, but I knew I could do better so I called a do-over, and then I got a home run,” said five-year old T-ball star Tommy Metzger. “That was awesome.”

However, not all experts were convinced, calling it a flagrant and shameful abuse of the whole do-over process. “[Obama] is a cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater,” said seven-year old soccer phenom Taylor Watts. “Do-overs are only allowed when the ball gets kicked over the fence. Unless Biden kicked the ball out on to Pennsylvania Avenue, he shouldn't get a do-over.”

If the president was on my team, I’d take my ball and go home.

Constitutional historians say the do-over clause is one of the least-known and least-utilized provisions of the U.S. Constitution. It was first used by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 after he originally agreed to give Napoleon Bonaparte $11 million in exchange for the city of New Orleans, 50 cases of good French wine and a slave to be named later. Jefferson called a do-over and was able to renegotiate the deal into what became the Louisiana Purchase.

The last attempted do-over was in 1973 when President Richard Nixon tried to invoke the do-over clause to say that Watergate never happened. However, the Supreme Court struck down that effort, saying the do-over clause only applied to actions of the presidents, not his bumbling underlings.

The last successful attempt came in 1933, when a do-over of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address gave us his famous “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” line, instead of the original, less well-received, version: “The only thing we have to fear is polio. And crippling economic depression. And comets. And spider monkeys. Man, those things creep me out.”

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