Thursday, August 16, 2012

Chain of Fools

Recent controversy this week revolved around some remarks of Vice President Joe Biden who observed that while Romney was planning on unchaining regulations on Wall Street, the Republicans would in fact be putting the middle-class back in chains if Romney was elected. Biden's exact words were, ""He said in the first hundred days, he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street.  They're going to put y'all back in chains."

The Romney camp took umbrage over those remarks, releasing a statement which said that, ""After weeks of slanderous and baseless accusations leveled against Governor Romney, the Obama Campaign has reached a new low.  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. President Obama should tell the American people whether he agrees with Joe Biden's comments."

President Obama and the rest of the Democratic establishment are standing firmly behind the Vice President, issuing their own statement via spokesperson. "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 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."
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While I keep in mind that this is the "silly season " of politics where umbrages and reverse "I'm offended that you're offended" are most likely to fly back and forth between camps, to me this seems even sillier than most.  It appears that some Republicans are trying to imply that because there were black people in attendance at this speech (the majority of the audience was white) this was a racially charged "dog whistle" to black people that Republicans want to re-enslave black people.  This seems something of a stretch for several reasons.  The biggest reason is that the context of the remarks clearly match up to the Republican rhetoric on this issue, and Biden directly refers to it before going into his statements about the chains.  A second reason is that the majority of the audience was white.  Under what theory would Biden alienate most of his audience by implying that blacks would be re-enslaved?  Indeed, the crowd appears to laugh at that point in Biden's remarks, going against the idea that he is firing up the black people in the crowd.  Ultimately, there is very little reason to find that Biden was performing a racial dog whistle in this case, unless the Republicans were as well, with their own "unshackle" imagery and rhetoric.

As Biden himself puts it when asked to clarify his remarks:

Here’s what Congressman Ryan said. He said, ‘We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy.’ The Speaker of the House said, used the word ‘unshackled’ as well, referring to their proposals. The last time these guys unshackled the economy, to use their term, they put the middle class in shackles. That’s how we got where we are.

Nine million jobs lost. Wage stagnation. 16 trillion dollars in wealth you all lost in your home equity, in your 401Ks and your pension plans. You’re the ones that got nailed. All of America, except the very few.

And I’m told that when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Virginia, the Romney campaign put out a tweet. You know, tweets these days? Put out a tweet, went on the airwaves saying, ‘Biden, he’s outrageous in saying that,’ I think I said instead of ‘unshackled,’ ‘unchained.’ ‘Outrageous to say that.’ That’s what we had. I’m using their own words.

I got a message for them. If you want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies and the effects of their policies on middle class America. That’s what’s outrageous.
I think Republicans would much rather have people look through the speech searching for an imaginary dog whistle, than listen to the actual context of the speech. Makes the job of shackling up the middle class again that much easier.


  1. I think it's a bait and switch. Romney's campaign has been calling the President "foreign" for months, and just last week they came out with the welfare spot. I think they are attacking to deflect from their own behavior. It's so much like the McCain campaign saying Obama was calling Palin a pig when he used the common phrase "putting lipstick on a pig" soon after she had joked that hockey moms were pitbulls with lipstick. Purposefully creating their own false umbrage to gin up the press.

  2. Of course it's silly. I also think it's obvious that had Romney or Ryan said something like this the reaction would have been the same. That's just the way the game works. I'm just disappointed they focused on the "chains" comment because there's so much in the comments to attack on a substantive basis. Yeah, I mean it's a little over the top to say people who are suffering through a bad economy are "in chains." But let's take a look at the actual claims. Because Republicans oppose Dodd-Frank they want to let "banks write their own rules" and that before Dodd-Frank banks could do so? Hmmm, maybe our beloved VP doesn't realize that, before Dodd-Frank, we still had the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC and the OCC exercising regulatory oversight over banks through thousands and thousands of pages of regulations. And as far as I know, Republicans haven't proposed abolishing these regulatory agencies. Alright, we'll give him a pass on that one. Next, what is this past right-wing led "unshackling" of the financial sector he is referring to? Repeal of Glass Steagall perhaps? No, that couldn't be it, because I know Joe knows that that was lobbied for by President Clinton and supported by large numbers of Democrats in Congress. Alright, let's give him a pass on that one too. Let's say, just hypothetically speaking, that the repeal of Glass Steagall was some ideological right wing project passed only by Republicans. That's pretty much what caused the financial crisis, right? Of course! Well, that and the Community Reinvestment Act, the government-sponsored entities Fannie and Freddie, easy money from the Fed, incompetence by the ratings agencies, accounting rules, and irresponsible behavior by individual borrowers and bankers. But yeah, pretty much just financial de-regulation. Oh, and low taxes for rich people if we're talking about fiscal policy! Those definitely caused the crash too. Just don't ask me how. Same old policies that got us into this mess, same old policies that got us into this mess, same old policies that got us into this mess, same old policies that got us into this mess...