The Chief Justice in fact screwed up the oath. The Constitution requires:
“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.”
Roberts left out the word “faithfully.” (He also said “President to the United States.”) Obama saw the mistake and stopped himself to give Roberts a chance to fix it. Roberts redid the line, remembering to throw in “faithfully,” but putting it in the wrong place after “President of the United States” and, this time, Obama went along with the wording. Close enough, I guess he figured. I wonder what Barack Obama was thinking. Maybe: Some textualist you turned out to be!
Let no one think Barack Obama made the mistake.
In some silly way, that moment of uncertainty offered such a glimpse into the humanness of the moment. Of course, maybe Roberts is still bummed about the fact that Obama voted against his confirmation.
Update: It’s been reported that Roberts later approached Obama at lunch and apologized for his mistake. Obama laughed and accepted his apology.
Update #2: Anyone interested in some linguistic geekiness over this issue must read this. Amazing.