Vice President Joe Biden caused an uproar when he warned a crowd at a campaign rally in Danville, VA, that Mitt Romney and big banks would “put y’all back in chains.”
“They’ve said it. Every Republican’s voted for it. Look at what they value, and look at their budget. And look what they’re proposing,” said Biden of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, whose author he will almost certainly be debating in the fall.
“[Romney] said in the first 100 days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules – unchain Wall Street,” Biden continued, blasting Romney’s proposed Wall Street reform. “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”
Romney has said that he would repeal the Dodd-Frank Act — the financial reform legislation signed by President Obama, which is designed to prevent many of the risky practices that led to the 2008 meltdown.
The Romney campaign immediately and forcefully denounced Biden’s use of the word “chains” in a town with a 48 percent black population. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul stated: “The comments made by the Vice President of the United States are not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama campaign will say and do anything to win this election.” Saul said Biden’s speech showed that the Obama campaign “has reached a new low.”
Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter responded in a statement of her own, saying:
For months, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan, and other Republicans have called for the ‘unshackling’ of the private sector from regulations that protect Americans from risky financial deals and other reckless behavior that crashed our economy. Since then, the Vice President has often used a similar metaphor to describe the need to ‘unshackle’ the middle class. Today’s comments were a derivative of those remarks, describing the devastating impact that letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle class families. We find the Romney campaign’s outrage over the Vice President’s comments today hypocritical, particularly in light of their own candidate’s stump speech questioning the President’s patriotism. Now let’s return to that ‘substantive’ debate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promised 72 hours ago, but quickly abandoned.
So much for a campaign about “big ideas.”
Republicans may be outraged today, but Biden is not the first politician to speak of chains as a metaphor. As Sam Stein of The Huffington Post notes, Rick Santorum criticized the Obama administration last August by warning, “They will put you in chains called ‘Obamacare,’ and you will never break away.” Similarly, Tea Party favorite Allen West is known for frequently invoking slavery in his speeches, even saying that President Obama would “rather you be his slave.”
Although Republicans are now calling on Obama to condemn Biden’s comments, RNC Chair Reince Preibus refused to condemn West’s inflammatory remarks. He brushed the issue aside, merely saying that he’s not the “police officer” of the Republican party.