AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
WASHINGTON: US Vice President Joe Biden apologised to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office for remarks which forced his boss into an early endorsement of same-sex marriage, sources said.
In a rare glimpse inside the relationship between the president and his understudy, sources familiar with the conversation said Biden said sorry on Wednesday, before Obama became the first president to openly back gay wedlock.
Biden, who has a history of straying from political messages, unleashed a media firestorm by saying on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday that he was ‘absolutely comfortable’ with gay marriage. That put him ahead of the president on the sensitive social issue dear to his liberal base, as until Wednesday, Obama’s position was that he was ‘evolving’ on whether gay marriage should be lawful, after personal reflection. In the resulting flap, which saw White House spokesman Jay Carney take a fearful grilling, officials decided that Obama had no choice but to give a public endorsement of gay marriage, as he did on Wednesday. “I’ve just concluded, for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama said in an historic interview with ABC News. Officials said privately that Obama had always intended to back gay marriage, but intended to do so at an advantageous political moment before his nominating convention in September.
Biden then appears to have committed the cardinal sin of a US vice president — overshadowing his boss. “The president has been the leader on this issue from day one and the Vice President never intended to distract from that,” Biden’s spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said in a statement.
Her comments followed a flurry of stories quoting anonymous administration officials as saying they were irritated with Biden’s comments, which forced Obama into making his statement early.
Obama said in the ABC News interview that Biden ‘probably got out a little bit over his skis, but out of generosity of spirit’. “I think Joe is an extremely generous loving person. And I think he was responding honestly in terms of how he felt. Would I have preferred to have done this in my own way? ... Sure. But all’s well that ends well.” The unequal relationship between the President of the United States and his vice president is always sensitive and sometimes strained.