Over the last few weeks, there’s been some astrological buzz about the fact that at the supposedly traditional swearing-in time of noon on January 20, and for about a half hour thereafter, the Moon would be void of course. This led to some suggestions by concerned astrologers that Obama should put off taking the oath until 12:30 pm or so. There’s a problem, though, with the void-of-course idea. I don’t use it myself, and once when I thought of adding it to a monthly publication I edit, I tiptoed through the literature, ancient and modern, and found at least five quite different ways of defining the period when the Moon, or any other body, is in this state. So while in my own opinion it wouldn’t have hurt to put off taking the oath, it probably wouldn’t have helped either.
But there’s a bigger problem here than the idea of whether void of course would have made a difference or not, and that is the fact that in normal circumstances there are three separate dates and/or times which we could take as the beginning, the “birth,” of a presidency. The first is for the certification by the congress of the election results. If you go here, you’ll find that Obama was officially certified as the successor to George W. Bush on January 9th at 1:35 pm EST. The next is for the constitutionally mandated date and time when Obama actually became president. As one wag put it, even if Obama had been home taking a bath at noon EST on January 20th instead of standing on the dais ready to take the oath, legally and constitutionally at that moment he would have been president.
The role of the oath in relation to the legal beginning of a presidency is quite a different thing. From noon of January 20th onward, the person certified earlier as president-elect is the president, but at that point though he can do fun things like hang around the White House yelling at the staff and doing photo-ops, he cannot legally exercise the duties and responsibilities outlined in Article 2, Sections 2 and 3, of the Constitution, because of the following statement at the end of Article 1:
“Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:
- “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.”
So while Obama was president at noon on January 20th, he couldn’t do much of anything until four minutes later when he took the oath.
But then of course there’s a twist that we all know about, which is that Chief Justice Roberts fluffed the wording of the oath, though not by much, when swearing in Obama. According to the Washington Post:
At the inauguration, Roberts instead said: “that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully.”
The only thing wrong was that “to” should have been “of,” and “faithfully” was in the wrong place in the sentence, but even though Roberts’ wording means exactly the same thing as the words in the Constitution, many if not most Constitutional scholars apparently feel that altering the wording invalidates the oath. According to the article just cited, Calvin Coolidge and Chester Alan Arthur also had oath problems. In these earlier cases, the oath was readministered at some point, as it was here for Obama, at 7:35 pm on January 21st, according to the political publication The Hill.
So where does that leave us? With the question of when, in an astrological sense, Obama became president. Out of the four Obamas, which one should an astrologer choose? On that I take the 5th.