It started so well. Pretty much on time and with a long statement running through the achievements of the past year. This was the president’s first press conference of the year at the end of his first year in office.
In advance, much was made of the fact this was likely to be a domestic-focused agenda, a chance to get the message across to the American people about what was being done to make their lives better. An attempt to get some positive control of the news agenda.
Unfortunately from a White House perspective it’s not the domestic agenda that’s dominating in the hours since. It’s the foreign agenda and a foreign faux pas at that.
Asked about the build of Russian troops on the Ukranian border, the president was quick to warn his Russian counterpart there would be serious consequences and heavy penalties should the border be crossed.
However, he went on to say: “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion… but if they actually do what they are capable of doing it’s going to be a disaster for Russia.”
What's more, he added that Putin “is likely to move in… he has to do something.”
Cue a collective intake of breath from Washington to Kyiv and many places in between.
Putin has “moved in” before and an incursion of whatever scale is a breach of Ukraine’s borders. Bear in mind this is a country that has become very familiar with Russian adventurism.
Since 2014, there have been eight years of Russian annexation and occupation in parts of Ukraine and the loss of almost 14,000 lives in the ensuing conflict.
When it comes to Russia, when it comes to borders, there’s no such thing as a minor incursion.
It was the kind of unscripted line that has derailed Biden before.
He was barely away from the podium before the White House had issued a clarification, insisting if any Russian military forces move across the border that would be a renewed invasion. A swift, severe and united response should be expected.
As a senator, vice-president and president, Joe Biden has a reputation for saying the wrong thing, “foot in mouth disease” as some dub it. Wednesday's recurrence was a serious one.
This was his chance to seize the news cycle, he has, but for all wrong reasons. He spoke for an hour and 51 minutes - the clean up will take much longer.