Of Chains and Shackles: When Will Americans Demand That ALL Politicians Take the Higher Ground?

Aug 15, 2012
8:36 am

Vice President Joe Biden is no stranger to the center of the political controversy. From jumping right into the Hispanderfiesta to driving a incredibly strong and passionate point about his personal life, Biden wears his heart on his sleeve. Most of the time he drives the message home effectively, but other times he does not.

Yesterday in Virginia, Biden did not make the Obama campaign happy, when he said the following at a stump speech: “Look at what they [Republicans] value, and look at their budget. And look what they’re proposing. [Romney] said in the first 100 days, he’s going to let the big banks write their own rules — unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put y’all back in chains.” According to Politico, "The comment drew a smattering of laughs and some noises from the 1,000 or so in the racially mixed crowd of supporters that appeared to be roughly half African-American."

Here is the clip of the video.

The comment led to a quick and responsive tweet from the Romney campaign that was posted (although it only got 36 retweets):

Then came a statement:

Romney Campaign National Press Secretary Andrea Saul today made the following statement in response to Vice President Biden:

“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.”

Later in the day Politico reported what Romney said at a stop in Ohio:

At a campaign event Tuesday night in Chillicothe, Ohio, Romney said Obama’s “campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the Presidency. Another outrageous charge came a few hours ago in Virginia. And the White House sinks a little bit lower.” “Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago,” Romney said. Romney added, “This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like. President Obama knows better, promised better, and America deserves better.”

All this outrage from the Romney camp led to Biden having to clarify his comments last night, laughing off the use of a "tweet" (this is the new age, Mr. Vice President, you better be ready) and trying to explain his way out of the gaffe. The fact that the following video was posted by Obama 2012's official YouTube page speaks volumes about Biden's original comments. The VP goofed big time.

Eventually, the Obama campaign had to admit that Biden's mistake. This came from CNN's John King:

"Publicly, Obama aides are defending the Vice President. Privately, they're not so happy," CNN's John King said about Biden's "chain" comment.

"Privately, though, I just had an email exchange, Wolf, with a senior Obama campaign adviser who said this is not helpful. The President is here in Iowa today. He wants to talk about energy. He wants to talk about farm programs. He wants to stay on message because he is trying to win this and other key battleground states and they believe that the Vice President has knocked them off track," King said.

Now, when I heard Biden's comments the first time, I did a double take. I can only imagine how uncomfortable some people who were there must have felt. And yes, it damaged the Obama campaign's focus yesterday. The Vice President should do more that just clarify. He should apologize for what he said.

However, it does feel a bit hypocritical that all of a sudden the nation's great defender of racial sensitivity is Mitt Romney.

Sure, the Romney campaign did what it needed to do yesterday: take political advantage of what the Vice President said and run with it. Manufacture the outrage. That is the job of political campaigns, and both the Republicans and Democrats know how to do it. The problem is that in a social media age this type of "news" is becoming more and more common. Now that reaction can be generated so quickly, the news cycle gets quicker and so does the interest. Once someone else makes a gaffe, the feeding frenzy stops and moves on to the next course.

Yes, what Biden said yesterday was awful and it was tinged with racial connotations. But THIS is the time for Mitt Romney to jump in and say that he continues to take the high ground? What about Romney's ;"free stuff" line ;or his recent remarks about welfare and the President? What about the countless of GOPers who in the end just have an issue with a President who happens to be of color? And don't get me started about the "campaign of division and anger and hate" against Latinos.

This is classic GOP campaign strategy: pound the message of an "entitled population" (read: Black and other people of color) as being bad for America, but once in a while express your ;"outrage" against your political opponent for being racially insensitive so that it proves that you are actually down with a post-racial society. And you wonder why such a strategy appeals more to people not of color? This is just like saying, "Hey, I have Black and Latino friends, I am not a racist. This is not about race."

This is what is wrong with America. We are relying way too much on the actions of two political campaigns, without taking the time to think through the fact that this is still all a game. What we should be doing as Americans is demanding that both campaigns stop the rhetoric and start focusing on the issues. But that is not going to happen, because politicians love to play on the psychology of voters (it is always easier to piss people off than inform them), the mainstream media loves to cover the outrage since the demand for 24/7 content is insatiable, and American voters in the end just see this entire campaign as a guilty pleasure political reality TV show that runs for months.

Maybe ALL of America is under shackles, and that has nothing to do with what side you support. When we will begin to raise the bar and the discourse? Right now, it still doesn't look good.

Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77on Twitter) founded LatinoRebels.com (part of Latino Rebels, LLC) in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He will pen a weekly column on LR each week. Recently, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS' Face the Nation, NPR, and The New York Times.