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Biden’s remarks overshadow Detroit rally

As Vice President Joe Biden heads to Detroit to campaign at Renaissance High School on Aug. 22, some are wondering what he will say next. I am not.

But if you’ve been following presidential politics closely, because November’s decision will be the most important for the next decade for everyone, you will realize it has been much ado about nothing regarding Biden’s remarks in Danville, Virginia last week. He told a majority African-American audience that Republicans “will put y’all back in chains,” in reference to claims that the GOP will deregulate and “unchain Wall Street” if Gov. Mitt Romney is elected.

Because he was speaking to a predominantly Black audience, Biden has been criticized for pandering to racial politics, and invoking sentiments that remind us of slavery and the bitter days of Jim Crow. As a result, some in the GOP have called for Biden to be dropped from the ticket.

Others have said his remarks only go to exemplify the so-called negative campaign of the Obama camp.

“You know, these are the kinds of things you say when you’re desperate in a campaign. I think you’re going to hear more of these things as we go on because they have a terrible record and can’t run on it so they’re going to kind of sink this campaign to these low levels to distract people,” Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate said about Biden’s remarks in an interview with Fox News. “To try and, you know, stoke the emotions of fear and envy, and it’s just not going to work. People are going to see through this. We’ve gone from hope and change to anger and division and blame and attack and I think people are going to see through this.”

Meanwhile, Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said the campaign has no problem with Biden’s use of the phrase that seemed to anger their opponents so much.

“I think he probably agrees with Joe Biden’s sentiments,” Cutter said about President Obama. “He’s using a metaphor to talk about what’s going to happen. I appreciate the faux outrage from the Romney campaign. If you want to talk about the use of words, then take a look at Mitt Romney’s stump speech where he basically calls the president un-American. The bottom line is that we have no problem with those comments.”

So will Biden repeat those remarks when he stops in Detroit to rally votes for November?

I don’t think so.

But one thing that is amazing about the so-called outrage is that it is coming from individuals who had an opportunity to appear credible in the eyes of the public before but blew it.

If Romney and the entire field of critics who are so upset about Biden’s reference to chains are genuine in their outrage, why didn’t they stop the nonsense from Donald Trump who made a crusade, complete with press conferences, questioning the president’s birthplace and education?

Where were they when Rev. Franklin Graham came out on Eastern Sunday morning last year — the most important day in the Christian calendar — and questioned President Obama’s loyalty to the Christian faith? Graham expressed doubt that Obama is a Christian because his father, who died as an atheist, was once a Muslim.

Where was Paul Ryan, who now seems to be concerned about fear and division when those seeds of fear and division that he’s talking about were first planted by elements within the right wing GOP who in many cases serve as their surrogates?

Where were all these men and women now angry at Biden when certain elements in the Tea Party used racial politics, including the birthers to suggest somehow that President Obama is not one of us, leading to the famous refrain, “We want our country back,” despite the conspicuous silence of such a sentiment during the George W. Bush years?

The double standard is not only ridiculous, it is shameful and embarrassing because some politicians prefer that we have no recollection of recent history. They act as if no one is a student of history, able to remember what happened just 12 months ago.

Whether it was the appropriate terms for Vice President Biden to use to describe economic policies under a Romney presidency is up for debate and has its merits and faults.

What we can’t do is sit here and act as if his critics have a clean record on calling out either gaffes and deliberate, carefully chosen words intended to hurt the subject in question or take away their legitimacy.

The subtlety of phrases that speak to the founding fathers and injecting anecdotes of how the nation was founded and the value system carries deep political and geographical overtones. And its been done mostly by GOP lawmakers upset at the president, seeking to play to a certain element in the extreme right wing who see President Obama as anti-American or un-American.

These are interesting and historical times, to watch what some men and women will do to win an election. That is why it is important that we do not allow dust to be thrown into our eyes.

No matter what Biden said and what he will say in Detroit on Wednesday, the fact remains that his GOP critics are no better.

Where was Paul Ryan when Republican Congressman Joe Wilson called President Obama a liar in the halls of Congress as he delivered the State of the Union Address?

To watch a congressman hurl such an insult at a sitting U.S. president inside the chambers of Congress was not only unprecedented, but one that spoke to the division that Ryan ironically suggested in responding to Biden’s remarks.

This is why the GOP will have to work hard to convince the majority of African-Americans that they are the party of the future. Some in the GOP are working tirelessly to show that it’s the party of inclusion but recent actions by some of its leaders betray any outreach efforts that are been made.

Don’t scapegoat the “chains” remarks. Move on to the bigger issues and how the 2012 election has now changed to what the role of government must become in an era of austerity, and the fight to preserve Medicare and Social Security.

Bankole Thompson is editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part book series on the Obama presidency. His book “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published in 2010, follows his recent book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty” with a foreward by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. Thompson is a political news analyst at WDET-101.9FM (NPR affiliate) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening roundtable on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut. Email

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