Barack Obama has patterned himself after some of our most revered Presidents. During the campaign he invited comparison to another Illinois politician who began his career in the state legislature, Abraham Lincoln, and it’s been widely reported that he’s been influenced by Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s account of Lincoln’s cabinet. Because of his age, he’s been compared to John F. Kennedy. And in his inaugural address on Tuesday, he invoked George Washington and echoed Thomas Jefferson.

On day two, however, he was keeping company with two of the less august members of our presidential pantheon: Chester A. Arthur and Calvin Coolidge.

090122-oath-obama-hmed-315a.h2.jpgArthur, Coolidge, and Obama are the only three presidents who have had to retake the oath of office.

In both Arthur’s and Coolidge’s cases, the irregularities occurred because a sitting president had just passed away.

Arthur was sworn in on September 20, 1881 in New York City after President Garfield died the previous day from the wounds he received after being shot in the back on July2. The oath was readministered when he returned to Washington, DC, two days later. (Click here to see an engraving of the first oath.)

Coolidge was sworn in on on August 2, 1923 after President Harding passed away. The oath was administered to Coolidge by his father, a notary public, which struck some as unseemly, so it was redone. (You can read Coolidge’s rather moving account of his intial swearing in here and a painting of the event from the Library of Congress here.)

Which makes Obama’s case unique and a tad embarrassing in comparison. Of course, Obama’s mistake wasn’t exactly his fault: it was Chief Justice Roberts who misplaced the word “faithfully,” with Obama (who clearly had studied his lines), then prompting the Chief Justice to correct his error. But in the confusion what Obama ended up doing was repeating the mistake. Greg Craig, the White House chief counsel, said that the original oath was legal, but that it was better to do it again “out of an abundance of caution.” There’s a nice little account of the do-over at

Let’s hope that we remember this little episode as the biggest mistake of Obama’s presidency (wouldn’t that be nice?) and not a portent of bigger mistakes to come.

In a sign that it’s a former rather than the latter, one of the other things that Obama did yesterday was a literal case of putting his money where his mouth has been: he froze the pay of senior White House aides making more than $100,000.

Go, O!

{Photo Credit: Office White House photo: Pete Souza / White House handout via AFP – Getty Images.]