Obama sworn in as US president


Barack Obama, the 44th US president, was sworn in for his second presidential term in a low-key private ceremony at the White House just before 12 noon today (around 4.55pm Irish time) that lasted less than two minutes.

Mr Obama avoided flubbing the pledge as he did four years ago during his first public inauguration when the Chief Justice John Roberts muddled the oath that the president had to repeat.

This time around the Chief Justice read the oath in contrast to the public swearing-in four years ago. “I did it,” said a relieved and happy Mr Obama after being congratulated by the Justice and thanking his wife Michelle.

The president was flanked by Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia during his swearing-in. The only witnesses to the oath-taking in the Blue Room of the White House were family members of the president.

Mr Obama recited the 35-word oath with a hand on the Robinson family bible, a Mother Day's gift to LaVaughn Delores Robinson, the grandmother of First Lady, by her son Fraser Robinson III in 1958.

The pledge was taken in private in contrast to the pomp and fanfare of tomorrow’s ceremony, meeting the constitutional requirement that a president must be sworn in by 12 noon on January 20th.

The falling of the official inauguration date on a Sunday has postponed the traditional public inaugural ceremony on the National Mall in Washington until tomorrow. This is the seventh time that January 20th has fallen on a Sunday.

Mr Obama will take the oath for the fourth and final time tomorrow in the public ceremony on the west steps of the US Capitol. As many as 800,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony, down from the 1.8 million who attended his first inauguration.

Vice president Joe Biden was sworn in during a two-minute ceremony this  morning at his residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in the north-west 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, about five inches thick with a Celtic cross on the cover. The vice president has taken every public office oath on the bible since he was elected a senator in 1972.

Surrounded by about 120 people, including his wife Dr Jill Biden 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 River in Virginia accompanying president Obama to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Today’s ceremonies mark the start of Obama’s second four-year period, ending a first term dominated by ending 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.

Mr Biden’s swearing-in was over-shadowed by a gaffe when he told supporters at the Iowa State Society inauguration ball yesterday 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, and he told the crowd that he had misspoken.

Mr Biden, who has become known for his occasional gaffes on the campaign trail, 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.”

The US media quickly queried whether Mr Biden's slip of the tongue was in fact a hint at his political ambition for the next presidential campaign in 2016, particularly given how Iowa is one of the early states where the parties choose their candidates.