From NBC's Pete Williams
The Obama administration's position on the oath of office can now be summarized as follows: There was no need to re-take the oath. Mr. Obama did it "out of an abundance of caution." But that same spirit of caution was not abundant enough to result in re-signing any of the executive orders he signed on Wednesday, before repeating the oath.
President Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said today that it was the White House counsel, Gregory Craig, who pressed for re-doing the oath to resolve any doubts. But if there were any such doubts, Gibbs was asked by NBC's Chuck Todd at today's press briefing, why not re-sign Wednesday's orders? "Because the counsel's office continues to believe that the president was sworn in appropriately and effectively," Gibbs said.
Pressed on whether that was a contradiction, Gibbs said, "Well, you know lawyers."
Many prominent constitutional scholars believe repeating the oath was the right move, even though it was legally unnecessary. Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard noted Thursday that Herbert Hoover got a word wrong in taking the oath in 1929, incorrectly prompted by Chief Justice Taft.
Hoover saw no point in doing it over. "In today's society, that would lead to lawsuits. It would lead to various pundits questioning the legitimacy of the presidency," Tribe said.
Professor Akhil Reed Amar at Yale summarized the view of many experts: "It couldn't hurt. It's like chicken soup, belt and suspenders. Why not do it?"
At Thursday's White House briefing, Gibbs noted that two other presidents are known to have said it over again. But in both those cases -- Chester A. Arthur in 1881 and Calvin Coolidge in 1923 -- concerns were raised about whether a sufficiently esteemed person administered the oath, not the wording.
By the way, there's no legal requirement for administering the oath. Anyone can do it.