Bench Memos

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It’s a Small Thing


and yes, you could call it nitpicky.  But can’t anyone involved in today’s inauguration remember certain pertinent details, and count correctly?  Here’s a line from early in President Obama’s inaugural address: “Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.”  Actually, no.  Only forty-three Americans have done so, including Obama.  He is the 44th president but the 43rd American to be president.  Grover Cleveland gets counted twice, as the 22nd and 24th presidents–not because he was so fat (William Howard Taft was fatter and only counts once), but because he served two terms nonconsecutively, interrupted by the four years of Benjamin Harrison.

And here’s Rick Warren giving the invocation: “Now, today, we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time . . .”  Um, no to that too.  We shouldn’t count the first president, George Washington, among those to whom power was “transferred,” though we might say it was “conferred” on him.  The transfer of power commences with the second president, John Adams, and thus has happened only 43 times.  Yes, this time you get to count Cleveland twice.


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