It's going to be an interesting four years. And y'all thought Bill Clinton and George W. Bush evoked partisanship and controversy!
Barack Obama hadn't even finished taking the oath of office as president and already people had their tights in a wad, even though, as it turned out, they were actually making much ado about nothing - which is very similar to making mountains out of mole hills if you are more familiar with colloquial idioms than you are with William Shakespeare.
Call it "Oathgate" if you must. I call it nitpicking, myself, but right out of the gate folks were eager to cast stones - and I mean folks of all political persuasions. There is nothing one-sided about this little brouhaha.
A little background, just in case you have spent the past week watching "Lost" recaps, like my lovely wife, Lisa did. As Chief Justice John Roberts began to administer the Presidential Oath on Tuesday, Obama began speaking before Roberts had stopped. They call that stepping on one's lines in the theater. Actually, I think Obama was just eager to get the whole swearing-in thing over with before Hillary Clinton had time to ask the Democratic Party to reconsider the Florida primary issue, but maybe he was just a little nervous.
At any rate, the beginning was a bit awkward' and things went downhill from there.
In the next part of the oath Roberts rearranged the words' putting faithfully at the end of the next phrase instead of the beginning. Now I don't know if the location of the adverb in question would change the meaning of the sentence or not. There might be an English teacher out there somewhere who knows a right smart about adverbs. You might ask one of them. I know that Mrs. Prosser, my senior English teacher, would know.
At any rate, Obama began to repeat what Justice Roberts had said, and then paused.
Now here's where folks started taking sides.
Opponents of Obama's candidacy, who were eager to see him make a mistake, interpreted his pause to mean that he forgot what he was supposed to say. You can imagine what a lot of those folks were saying, and that's sort of what it looked like. As it turns out, the president was understandably confused and wasn't sure if he should repeat the phrase "execute the office of ..." the way it had been presented, or correctly, the way he had memorized it, from the Constitution. Thank God for instant replay. Upon further review, the ruling among the anti-Obama masses was reversed. It was clear, when the tape was reviewed in super-slow-motion, from various angles, that Barack Obama had made an almost imperceptible nod to the Chief Justice, as if to say "try again."
And Roberts did. This time he got the word "faithfully" in the right place but left out the word "execute," after which Obama compounded the confusion by repeating the phrase exactly the way Roberts had originally said it - which was incorrect, according to the Constitution at least.
Quite frankly, these two dignified leaders looked like they were rehearsing for an Abbot and Costello routine at the Elks' Club talent oundup. Some cynics suggested that the trouble with the oath was indicative of Obama's ability to lead the nation, while others were convinced that Roberts had undermined the ceremony in retribution for Obama's non-support of Roberts' confirmation as Chief Justice.
Both groups were wrong, of course. Like I said. It was really much ado about nothing - just two very powerful men who, with the whole world watching, let their nerves get the best of them and flubbed their lines. The same thing happened to me when I played King Pellinore in the Heritage High School production of Camelot a couple of years ago. If I hadn't had Caroline Gatlin, who was playing the part of Guinevere, to feed me my lines, I would have messed up worse than those guys did on Tuesday' and there were only a few hundred people watching us' not millions.
Besides, I'm old enough to know better. We should cut those guys some slack. They are both pretty young. In fact, let this sink in for a moment. The President of the United States is younger than Madonna and barely older than Demi Moore and Larry the Cable Guy, and Roberts was born the same week as Debra Jo Fondren. (You can Google her name if it's not familiar. If you're a male of my generation it will come back to you.)
At any rate, lest any of us lose any sleep over the legitimacy of the Obama's presidency, Justice Roberts dropped by the White House Wednesday night for a do-over on the oath, so all is well. But I can't wait 'til February. If the swearing-in ceremony caused this much controversy, who knows what might happen with the State of the Union Address.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.