It's a 35-word sentence not designed to be a tongue twister, but the Presidential Oath of Office managed to trip up both men who had to say it during yesterday's inauguration ceremony.
Seconds into the official swearing-in of President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was the first to stumble. As he began reciting the oath, which is prescribed in the U.S. Constitution, he omitted the eighth word "faithfully." According to the Constitution, the oath is supposed to read: "I do solemnly swear 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."
Realizing in mid-oath what he had done, Chief Justice Roberts tacked the word onto the end of the opening phrase, after the words "United States."
The reversal of words seemed to confuse Mr. Obama. With his brow furrowed against the cold, and perhaps against the weight of the task at hand, he abruptly stopped himself from repeating the Chief Justice's error.
Chief Justice Roberts, who was conducting his first presidential inauguration, then tried to repair his mistake by restating the phrase. But he bungled it again by omitting the word "execute," instead saying, "faithfully, the office of President of the United States."
With the words of the oath still not right, Mr. Obama, who appeared to want to get on with it, repeated Chief Justice Roberts's first iteration of the reversed phrase.
That didn't stop Chief Justice Roberts from pronouncing Mr. Obama President seconds later.
Still, the awkwardness of the oath was not lost on the pair, who have a history as adversaries. Mr. Obama was one of 22 Senate Democrats who voted against Chief Justice Roberts's confirmation in 2005. Last week Mr. Obama met with him and the other Supreme Court justices during a courtesy call.
The Associated Press reported that the two were seen joking about the bungled oath at the inaugural luncheon, where Chief Justice Roberts appeared to tell Mr. Obama, "It was my fault."