Thursday, January 22, 2009

Re: And the Band Played Hail to the Chief

Q: What's the deal with the 12:00pm rule on Inauguration Day? Does the President-elect become President at noon regardless if the oath has been administered or not? First I heard of it on Tuesday?

A: First I heard of it too, and I think it’s a lot of nonsense, as subsequent events have proved. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution does state that the old President’s term ends and the new President's term begins at noon on January 20 and, but does not say that the new President can dispense with taking the oath. His term starts at noon, and he can start work once he takes the oath. What if the President-elect were to refuse to take the oath or affirmation? The TV commentators spinning this "regardless if the oath is administered or not" nonsense obviously haven’t thought it through.

Q: So are you saying any band playing Hail to the Chief is sufficient to confirm someone as the President of the United States?

A: We're not talking about any old band, we're talking about "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. The band was founded in 1798 by an Act of Congress. It has played at Presidential Inaugurations since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the first President to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C. It was led from 1880 to 1892 by no less then John Philip Sousa. He wrote the marches Stars and Stripes Forever, Semper Fidelis, The Washington Post, and The Liberty Bell, among 130 others, and also invented the Sousaphone.

Currently under the direction of Marine Corps Colonel Colonel Michael J. Colburn, the band consists of 5 officers and around 130 musicians. These men and women are all U.S. citizens, have been sworn in as marines for a four-year term of service in the Marine Corps, and are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This was Colonel Colburn's sixth inauguration as a member of the band.

Q: Where do you get this stuff???

A: Vocalist MGySgt. Michael Ryan sang “America, the Beautiful” at President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Inauguration Ceremony with the band as 52 American hostages were released after 444 days of captivity in Iran. Just a remarkable coincidence of timing?

Re: And the Band Played Hail to the Chief

Original words from the Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott:

Hail to the chief, who in triumph advances,
Honored and bless'd be the evergreen pine!
Long may the tree in his banner that glances,
Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line.
Heav'n send it happy dew,
Earth lend it sap anew,
Gaily to bourgeon and broadly to grow;
While ev'ry highland glen,
Sends our shout back again,
"Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! i-e-roe!"

Ours is no sapling, chance-sown by the fountain,
Blooming at Beltane, in winter to fade;
When the whirlwind has stripp'd ev'ry leaf on the mountain,
The more shall Clan Alpine exult in her shade.
Moor'd in the lifted rock,
Proof to the tempest shock,
Firmer he roots him, the ruder it blow;
Menteith and Breadalbane, then,
Echo his praise again,
"Roderigh Vich alpine dhu, ho! i-e-roe!"

Row, vassals, row for the pride of the Highlands!
Stretch to your oars for the evergreen pine!
Oh, that the rosebud that graces yon islands,
Were wreath'd in a garland around him to twine!
O, that some seedling gem,
Worthy such noble stem,
Honor'd and bless'd in their shadow might grow!
Loud should Clan Alpine then,
Ring from her deepmost glen,
"Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! i-e-roe!"

Re: And the Band Played Hail to the Chief

Words to Hail to the Chief:

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.
Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that's our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!

And the Band Played Hail to the Chief

CNN is reporting that Barack Obama took the oath of office a second time Wednesday night, once again administered by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Presumably they thought the second time would be the charm.

At the beginning of Barack Obama’s inaugural address on Tuesday he stated, “Forty-four Americans have now taken the Presidential oath.” The fact checkers were quick to point out that the number it is actually forty-three. While Barack Obama is counted as the forty-fourth President, Grover Cleveland is counted as both the twenty-second President and the twenty-fourth President because he served two nonconsecutive terms, so that would make only forty-three persons who have taken the oath. Some fact checkers were also saying that the number still stood at forty-two because the oath of office had not been not properly administered to Barack Obama. Oh my.

Without repeating all the particulars here, the problem in a nutshell was that the phrase “will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States” instead came out “will execute the office of President of the United States faithfully” due to some misprompting by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. The G. stands for Glover, which happens to be old baseball slang for a goof-up when a player fielding a ground ball can’t get the ball out of his glove to throw the runner out.

So to settle all arguments they did a do over Wednesday night. But I am looking at the White House Photo of the second oath, posted on CNN and I don’t see a Bible. Granted, a Bible is not strictly necessary under the U.S. Constitution, but … has he committed another glover?

The nutcase tax protesters are going to crawl out of their shells claiming they don’t have to pay their federal income taxes because the words to the first oath were wrong and the second oath wasn’t sworn on a Bible. You see, all executive power in the U.S. federal government derives from the President, so if the President is not properly sworn the Internal Revenue Service does not have the power to collect income taxes, etc., etc., etc., so the argument goes. Such arguments play great on the internet and talk radio and always lose in court. But, please, let’s not do this oath a third time.

As it happens, this is not the first time that a President has repeated the oath of office because of concerns it was not administered correctly. Vice President Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President by his father, a Vermont justice of peace and notary public, after receiving word that President Warren Harding had died. Vice President Chester Arthur was sworn in as President by a New York State Supreme Court judge after President James Garfield was assassinated. In both those cases, the concern was that the oath had been administered by a state official, and needed to be administered by a federal judge to be valid.

Other Presidents have deviated somewhat from the exact Constitutional text without doing a do over. For example, when Lyndon Johnson took the oath in 1965, he said “office of the Presidency of the United States” instead of “office of the President of the United States.” In 1929 Herbert Hoover was incorrectly prompted by then Chief Justice William Howard Taft to say “"preserve, maintain, and defend" the Constitution, instead of "preserve, protect, and defend.” Taft was also a former President.

One salient fact has been omitted in everything that I have seen on this small controversy. When Chief Justice Roberts finished administering the oath on Tuesday, the band played Hail to the Chief. There is one law that is higher than any statute passed by Congress, higher than the Constitution of the United States, higher even than any international law or treaty. That is band law.

The one fundamental principle of band law is that decisions of the band are final. The band decides who is in the band and who is not. The band decides if its instruments are in tune before it begins to play. When it has gotten off to a bad start, the band decides whether it will start over or just keep playing. The band decides whether to take requests from the audience and whether to honor those requests. And the band decides whether or not it will give encores. There is no appeal from the decision of the band. It should be noted that in both instances where U.S. Presidents retook the oath of office, there was no band.

The band played Hail to the Chief for President Barack Obama after the administration of the first oath on Tuesday, therefore, Barack Obama was duly sworn in as President of the United States.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Bungled Oath

There has been a lot of misinformation about how U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 20.

Here is the oath of office as it appears in Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 7 of the U.S. Constitution:

"I 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."

Here is the how the oath might properly have been administered, with the words Chief Justice Roberts left out in brackets and the words he added in italics.

Are you ready to take the oath Senator? [Place your left hand on the Bible, raise your right hand and repeat after me:]

"I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will [faithfully] execute the office of President [of] to the United States faithfully and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help [me] you God."

Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts left out the call to place the left hand on the Bible, as has been omitted for the last several Presidents, and raise the right hand out of concerns that would imply he was making a voluntary religious gesture a requirement.

Barack Obama got a false start, speaking over the top of Chief Justice Roberts at the start of the oath, which I attribute to the Chief Justice’s error in omitting the words "repeat after me." When Barack Obama reached the words "will execute" he paused, realizing that the Chief Justice had gone wrong, and the Chief Justice tried to correct himself by interjecting "the off- faithfully the Pres- the office of President of the United States" before continuing with the rest of the oath.

When you paste it all together, here is what Barack Obama ended up reciting, which differs from the Constitutional text in the placement of the word "faithfully":

"I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will execute the office of President of the United States faithfully and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God."

I will observe that Barack recited all the words in the oath and moving the adverb "faithfully" to the end of the phrase does not change the oath's meaning. It seems to me no more violence has been done to the Constitutional text than is done by inserting the new President’s name or appending the phrase "so help me God."

In fact, an atheist activist filed a lawsuit back in December to prevent using the phrase "so help me God" but that was thrown out of court. That's a phrase that is commonly added in English-speaking countries when an oath is sworn in the traditional way on a Bible. Under the U.S. Constitution, a new President has the option to say "I affirm" rather than "I swear … so help me God" but only one President has done that.

Some commentators are saying that the U.S. Constitution requires that the oath be taken exactly as written, but "exactly as written" does not appear in the Constitution. Others say that Barack Obama became President at noon on Tuesday whether or not he took the oath. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution does state that the old President’s term ends and the new President's term begins at noon on January 20 and, but does not say that the new President can dispense with taking the oath.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for 2009

I had an epiphany last night, and here are my new New Year’s Resolutions for 2009:

(1) Put on more weight – I was going to try to loose the few extra pounds I put on in 2008, but after a trip to the mall I realized that I haven’t put on enough to keep up with current fashion.

(2) Exercise less and take up smoking – I’ve discovered a carton of cigarettes costs less than a gym membership, at least if you drive to New Hampshire for the smokes.

(3) Give all my money to Wall Street – They clearly need it more, and are going to get it all eventually. By giving it all to them now, I’ll eliminate years and years of stress. Does anyone have the web site address for the Bernie Madoff legal defense fund?

(4) Learn a new swear word – The old ones just aren’t getting the job done anymore.

(5) Listen less and whine more – Listening only encourages other people’s whining. Whining about whining is the post-modern way.

(6) Work dumber – Working harder or smarter only digs the hole deeper.

(7) Resist change – What was wrong with the status quo?

(8) Forget something – What was I going to say here?

(9) Drop a friend – Like the song we sing every New Year’s Eve says, “auld acquaintance should be forgot, and never brought to mind.” Hey, you’re the ones sending me the “unsubscribe” replies.

(10) Read less and watch more television – Think of the valuable TV watching time you’re wasting just reading this.