This is something to tell your children: Don't be afraid of making a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. Two of the smartest men in America -- the Chief Justice of the United States and the President of the United States -- flubbed the one-sentence oath of office. Obama seemed to jump in too quickly repeating the first words of the oath and Roberts then got the next words out of order. Oh, well. The world continued to spin on its axis. The speech was delivered. The parade went forward.
But just to be on the safe side, constitutionally speaking (the document does specify that all presidents will take the oath), Roberts and Obama repeated it correctly the next day so no one could say there was any cloud on the legitimacy of the Obama presidency. One can only wish that this punctiliousness about strict adherence to the words of the Constitution were more often observed by liberals, who like to say that it's a "living document" with malleable meanings.
There were things for conservatives to like in Obama's address. Few have noticed, for example, that he clearly disavowed plans to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. He proclaimed that those who hold on to power through "silencing dissent" were on "the wrong side of history." That's a relief. And there was a coded message for conservatives in his call for the nation to "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again " Those were almost exactly the lyrics of a song from the 1936 musical "Swing Time," and they were sung by Ginger Rogers, a noted Republican. When you add that to the fact that Obama has kept on Robert Gates, you've got real common ground.
More seriously, considering his record and past associations, Obama might have delivered a far more divisive and incendiary address. Certainly the crowd on the Mall would have loved it if he had. But just as his appointments have reflected an intent to govern more from the center than from the left, his speech was somewhat conservative in spirit. He repeatedly invoked "our ancestors" and those who sacrificed so much to secure our way of life. That's a conservative impulse. Conservatives look to the past for inspiration. Liberals are always fixed on the possibilities of the future.