Wednesday, January 21, 2009

fence post and other inauguration errors

Just as on election day, I was on an airplane over Greenland as the world changed, so I had the inauguration on a DVR. Absolutely amazing to see and I am as thrilled as everyone by what the future holds. A few nits did pop out while watching:

First, apparently, on top of his other challenges, Rick Warren would also be a lousy programmer:

Now today we rejoice not only in America's peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time.

Obama is the 44th President, so we had 44 transfers, right?
Well, no. We've had 43 transfers between Presidents. This kind of "off-by-one" error is called a "fence post" error in computer science and is sadly common in software projects. Of course, maybe Rick was including the transfer of power from the British to George Washington in his list of "peaceful transfers."

Second, alas, President Obama decided to make a similar mistake:
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath

Unless SkyNet sent a rotund T-1000 back in time and replaced Grover Cleveland between 1889 and 1893, Forty-three Americans have taken the Oath. Cleveland was both our 22nd and 24th President, but he was the same person. There have been 44 Presidencies but only 43 Presidents.

Third, it really instills me with a sense of confidence that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court couldn't bother to learn the Presidential Oath of Office:
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.

Not too long, is it. Note the absence of "So help me God" in the Constitutional instructions.
Well, they probably called Chief Justice Roberts Tuesday morning and said "Hey, John, if you aren't, you know, busy today, would you mind attending Barack's inauguration? It would be so cool if you could give him the Oath of Office."
Maybe he's irked that Obama voted against his confirmation?

1 comment:

Avi said...

If Obama had said "43," no doubt the wingnuts would be jumping all over him (perhaps even claiming that as proof of his foreign birth...).

I'm also of the opinion that if we say Cleveland was two different Presidents, then it's ok to count him as two Americans (though Taft would be the more obvious choice, IMO). IOW, I'd rather have suffered the out-of-order exception than the redundant increment, which would have resulted in Obama being #43 in both ways.

But much as I'd hate to defend Warren, George Washington did indeed assume the Presidency in a peaceful manner, and from other Americans no less -- at least that's what I learned in school.

The Articles of Confederation (1777ish to 1789ish) had a kind of President of the Congress before the US Constitution was adopted, with Washington taking over as the first true executive in 1789, iirc. By then, it'd been a few years since the war.

I also wondered, before I remembered that, if Washington was indeed an American citizen when he became President, or right after. There could have certainly been another off-by-one error over that little oversight, and a whole bunch of currency to recall.

But indeed the Articles, not the Constitution, are what made [many] residents of the Several States Citizens of the USA. Whew!