The inauguration of President Barack Obama satisfied many astrologers in at least one minor aspect – the swearing-in oath, conducted during a retrograde Mercury, was screwed up by Chief Justice John Roberts, such that he felt it necessary to go to the White House later that same evening and do it all over again.

But does retrograde Mercury spell disaster for the Obama term of office? Not at all. Mercury Rx is not the universal kiss-of-death that many astrologers (and their clients) think it is. A little context is necessary to fully understand its ramifications.

I clocked the swearing in at 12:05 PM on January 20, 2009. In the sidereal system favored by Vedic astrologers, that gives an Aries ascendant with Ketu in the fourth house, retrograde Saturn in the fifth, Moon in the eighth, Mars in the ninth, a stellium (retrograde Mercury, Sun, Jupiter and Rahu) in the tenth, and Venus in the eleventh.

Although considered strong in natal charts, retrograde planets in prashna (horary) or muhurtha (electional) charts can be a problem for the houses they rule. In this chart, Mercury rules the third house (communications, contracts and neighbors) and the sixth (labour, the environment and enemies). Mercury’s role as lord of communications certainly delivered a glitch in the swearing-in, but what else does it mean?

Because Mercury is both retrograde and combust, we can expect the USA’s neighbors to flinch under the Obama administration. This doesn’t necessarily mean scratching NAFTA, but it could spell a round of re-negotiating certain trade agreements within the context of a “good-fences-make-good-neighbors” approach toward Canada and Mexico.

Since Mercury also rules the sixth house and labor, we can expect a tough-love attitude toward unions, starting with the United Auto Workers in whose feathered beds Detroit’s Big Three are now tossing and turning with nightmares of bankruptcy. Similarly, the sixth house environment is going to see some serious revisions of government policy. Last but not least, sixth house enemies will be approached with carrots and threatened with sticks.

With Moon, lord of the fourth house (general public) debilitated in the eighth, the people of America will certainly suffer. Like Amy Winehouse, they’ll be singing “They want to make me go to re-hab, but I said no, no, no…” while being dragged kicking and screaming all the way. But just as alcoholics and gambling addicts must embrace a “no pain, no gain” philosophy to get through withdrawal, there’s a light at the end of that long tunnel, maybe toward the end of Obama’s first term.

Mars, lord of the Ascendant, stands unobstructed in the ninth house, so foreign policy will be a big-time pivotal element in the Obama administration. Unfortunately, ninth house lord Jupiter is both debilitated and combust in the tenth house, so there may be flaws in the policy. But the Sun is strong in the tenth house, and enjoys a mutual exchange with Saturn in the fifth, so the administration, or execution of that policy, will generally be strong.

In fact, there are many signs for good government in this inauguration chart. Links between the fifth house (ministership), ninth house (policy) and tenth house (administration) are vital for any political chart. As noted above, the Sun/Saturn exchange links the fifth and the tenth, while Jupiter’s ownership of the ninth and occupancy of the tenth links it to the Sun and thus, via the exchange, to Saturn.

Last but not least, Venus as lord of the second house (finance, education) and the seventh (foreign relations) is in the eleventh (social idealism) opposed to Saturn (reality) but, in the long run, will prevail in rebuilding America’s domestic vitality and developing better relationships with the rest of the world.

Go, Obama, go!