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 chief justice of the United States 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 which he could read the oath, Mr. Biden then said, “My memory isn’t as good as Justice Roberts’.”
It was a dig at Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., 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 was not 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.
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 did not know, after finishing his comments on executive orders, what was supposed to happen next, and had to ask for guidance from an aide in the audience.
“Are we done?” he said.
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, all of it happened as TV cameras were rolling.