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In the Loop

The Other Right Hand

By Al Kamen
Friday, January 21, 2005; Page A15

So what was House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) doing on the stage at the West Front of the Capitol yesterday administering the oath of office to Vice President Cheney?

Hastert seemed a bit tense reading the oath to a relaxed Cheney. Could be because Cheney had done this before, but it was a first for Hastert.

Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. was the third speaker to administer the oath. He swears in Vice President Walter F. Mondale in 1977 as Mondale's wife, Joan, and President Jimmy Carter observe. (United Press International)

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And the speaker acquitted himself reasonably well, making just three mistakes -- all corrected by Cheney -- in the 70-plus-word oath. The first was that Hastert read "defend and support the Constitution," which Cheney fixed to "support and defend."

Hastert also said "that I will take this obligation freely." Cheney, relying on memory, dropped the incorrect insertion of "will" into the phrase. The third was when Hastert said "duties of my office" instead of "the" office.

We're told this was but the fourth time in U.S. history that a House speaker has administered the oath of office and the first time in 28 years that anyone but a Supreme Court justice has sworn in either the president or vice president.

The other three occasions, our colleague Madonna Lebling reports, were by Democratic speakers: Sam Rayburn swore in fellow Texan and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1961; John W. McCormack (Mass.) gave the oath to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey in 1965; and Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (Mass.) did the honors for Vice President Walter F. Mondale in 1977.

In 1969, Senate GOP leader Everett McKinley Dirksen (Ill.) swore in Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, while Chief Justice Earl Warren gave the oath to President Richard M. Nixon.

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger gave the oath to both men in 1973 and a year later to President Gerald R. Ford and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller. Burger also swore in Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan (twice), while Justice Potter Stewart, a pal of Bush I, handled the vice presidential oath-giving both times.

As of yesterday, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist tied Burger for administering the presidential oath five times: once to George H.W. Bush, twice to Bill Clinton and twice to Bush II.

The two-justice tradition continued, as Vice President Dan Quayle was sworn in by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Vice President Al Gore was sworn in first by Justice Byron R. White and then by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Rehnquist administered the oath to Cheney in 2001.

But there was Hastert, somehow managing to wrest a bit of camera time from Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), head of the Hill's inaugural committee, who hasn't been on TV this much since . . . well . . . for a while.

Hastert and Cheney, who is, after all, a House veteran, are fishing buddies, we're told.

Cheney called shortly after the election, and Hastert was thrilled to accept. Well, they might want to go back to using the justices.

Site for Sore I's: Imus, Israel, Iran, Iraq

Speaking of Cheney, he gave a pre-inaugural interview to MSNBC's "Imus in the Morning," which aired yesterday, talking about how Iran was at the top of the administration's list of world trouble spots. He expressed concern that Israel "might well decide to act first" to eliminate any nuclear threat from Tehran.

"Expressed concern?" Absolutely. Quaking in his boots. You betcha. No doubt he and the missus can't sleep at night sometimes, fretting about this.

On the other hand, in June 1991, during a visit to Israel after the Persian Gulf War, then-Defense Secretary Cheney gave Maj. Gen. David Ivri, then the commander of the Israeli Air Force, a satellite photograph of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, Osirak, which the Israelis had taken out in an airstrike 10 years earlier.

"For General David Ivri," Cheney wrote on the photo, "with thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi Nuclear Program in 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm." Ivri, when he was Israeli ambassador to Washington a few years ago, liked the photo so much he had it hanging in his office.

So was Cheney concerned? Or was this diplo-speak to the Israelis to "do the right thing?"

Kelly May Follow Powell Out the Door

Also on the diplo front, word last week was that Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Paul V. Kelly, who served 30 years in the Marines, was off to become a private citizen. His replacement is said to be Matt Niemeyer, congressional chief for U.S. Trade Representative and Deputy Secretary of State-designate Robert B. Zoellick, and, earlier, deputy political director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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