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:
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.
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.