Chief Justice Roberts fumbled the oath of office, apparently rattled by the fact that President Obama jumped in to repeat his name before Roberts had completed the first clause. This reminds us of the importance of pre-inaugural consultation between the Chief Justice and President-elect. In February 1933, days before Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inauguration, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote to FDR to ascertain his wishes about whether to recite the oath in full or simply to say, "I do." FDR replied, as one New York Governor to another, that he would abide by the Chief's wishes, and Hughes replied that he would assume FDR wanted to hear the oath in its entirety before repeating it, unless instructed otherwise. "I have told the Clerk to have a slip of paper ready with the exact words," Hughes concluded. FDR agreed and the oath went off without a hitch. Roberts, who apparently rehearsed by himself, should've followed Hughes's example and checked in with Obama first.
Jeffrey Rosen is legal affairs editor at The New Republic and president and CEO of the National Constitution Center.