- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009

That didn’t take long.

During his first full day in office, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a jarring verbal gaffe, shooting a public dig at the Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. that left President Obama grim-faced.

When asked by Mr. Obama to administer the oath of office to White House senior staff, Mr. Biden, who is known for saying things he shouldn’t, asked, “Am I doing this again?”

Appearing in need of a cheat sheet off of which he could read the oath, Mr. Biden then said, “My memory isn’t as good as Justice Roberts’.”

It was an unsubtle dig at the chief justice, who during Mr. Obama’s swearing in at the Capitol on Tuesday flubbed the oath of office, causing Mr. Obama to pause and stumble through the highlight of his inauguration.

But the new president appeared not to be amused by Mr. Biden’s crack. As some in the audience drew in breath and gave low “oohs,” Mr. Obama stood silently next to Mr. Biden and appeared to just barely shake his head.

It was the second time this week a Biden went off script, to the embarrassment of the new administration.

Appearing with her husband on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” Monday, Jill Biden confided that during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama had offered Mr. Biden the choice of being vice president or secretary of state.

As Mr. Biden put his finger to his lips and said, “Shhhhh,” Mrs. Biden stuck by her account, saying he chose vice president in part because the job involved less travel.

“If you’re secretary of state, you’ll be away, we’ll never see you,” she said.

After Wednesday’s gibe at the chief justice, Mr. Biden then asked who he was swearing in, prompting Mr. Obama to instruct all his senior staff to stand for the oath.

It was the most awkward moment in a ceremony full of them, highlighting the new world in which the infant administration now finds itself.

Mr. Obama, after finishing remarks at the event on new executive orders for his staff, was unsure what was supposed to happen next and had to ask for guidance from an aide in the audience.

“Are we done?” he asked.

He then announced that he would wade into the audience and greet staffers seated in Room 450 of the Executive Office Building, a medium-sized amphitheater, before deciding that that would be too difficult. He then indicated that aides and staffers should come up on the dais to shake his hand.

Worst of all, it all happened as the television cameras were rolling.

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