No fluffing as President Obama takes oath at private event
Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, was sworn in for his second presidential term just before noon yesterday – about 4.55pm Irish time – in a low-key private ceremony at the White House that lasted less than two minutes.
Mr Obama avoided a repeat of his fluffing of the pledge four years ago on the steps of the Capitol at his first public inauguration when the chief justice, John Roberts, without referring to notes, muddled the oath, which the president then repeated.
Mr Roberts did not make the same mistake yesterday and instead read the 35-word oath. “I did it,” a relieved and happy President Obama said after being congratulated by the chief justice and thanking his wife, Michelle, calling her “Sweetie”.
Mr Obama’s hand rested on a bible that Michelle Obama’s father Fraser Robinson III had given to his mother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, on Mother’s Day 1958.
The only witnesses to the swearing-in in the Blue Room of the White House were Obama family members and some members of the media. Mr Obama was flanked by his wife Michelle and their daughters Sasha and Malia during the ceremony.
As the official inauguration date fell on a Sunday, the traditional ceremony on the National Mall and parade on Pennsylvania Avenue will be held today.
Final security preparations were being made last night ahead of the arrival of between 500,000 and 700,000 visitors – down from an original estimate of 800,000 – for the public events.
Vice-president Joe Biden was sworn in during a two-minute ceremony yesterday morning at his residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in the northwest of Washington DC.
Mr Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic judge on the court. He used a family bible with a Celtic cross on the cover.
Surrounded by about 120 people, including his wife Jill and other family members, Mr Biden shook the justice’s hand after taking the oath and thanked those in attendance.
He then departed for Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac in Virginia, accompanying President Obama to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The private ceremonies mark the start of Mr Obama’s second four-year period, ending a first term dominated by winding down two wars, struggling to kick-start the economy, the passage of breakthrough health reforms and bitter political fighting with Republicans in Congress over fiscal policies.
His inaugural address is expected to reach out to Republicans seeking political conciliation on thorny domestic issues he faces in his second term, from divisive policies on further fiscal changes and immigration reform to tighter curbs on gun ownership.
Mr Biden’s swearing-in was overshadowed by a gaffe, when he told supporters at the Iowa State Society inauguration ball on Saturday night that he was “proud to be president of the United States”.
As the audience laughed and cheered, Mr Biden was corrected by his son Beau, Delaware’s attorney general.
Mr Biden, who is well known for his occasional misspeaking, corrected himself.
“I’m proud to be vice-president of the United States,” he said, “but I am prouder to be Barack Obama’s, President Barack Obama’s vice-president.”
Sections of the US media wondered if this was really a slip or if Mr Biden was hinting at his ambition for 2016, particularly given that Iowa is one of the early states where the parties choose their candidates.