On Biden's 'Wall Street chains' remark

Vice President Joe Biden in Danville, Virginia 14 August 2012 Joe Biden's remarks were quickly seized on by the Romney campaign and the US media

So much for Paul Ryan's pick as Romney running mate elevating the debate to one of big ideas. We are back to mud slinging.

Media coverage is still on fire with reaction to that comment by Vice-President Joe Biden about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his number two, Wisconsin Representative Ryan: "They're going to put y'all back in chains."

Mr Biden's remarks, to an audience including many African-Americans, were about Mr Romney's plans to get rid of laws regulating banks.

This is what he said: "Romney wants to, he said in the first 100 days, he's gonna let the big banks again write their own rules. 'Unchain Wall Street!' They're going to put you all back in chains."


The Romney campaign said it was "reckless", "outrageous" and Mr Romney himself accused the president of running a campaign of "anger and hate".

Given that the usual complaint about Mr Obama is that he is too detached - too cool - that is quite a charge.

Most of the media seem to agree Mr Biden made an awful gaffe. Most of the media have skirted around why it was supposed to be so terrible. It was, of course, because he (perhaps inadvertently) used an image of slavery.

The BBC analyses Republican running mate Paul Ryan's controversial economic policy

It is a striking feature of American political debate that it is not just using racist language that is out of bounds. For some, any mention of race or African-American history is on the index of forbidden topics.

Of course, Mr Biden's comments were provocative and perhaps over the top - but were they beyond the pale? (A phrase which does have a racial connotation, but perhaps not the one you would think).

Some have called on Mr Biden to resign.

Leading conservative commentator Michelle Malkin said he was "race-baiting" and guilty of a "racist racial pander".

Redstate says he is "inciting racial animosity for political gain". (One comment on the blog adds: "the Marxists insist on calling us 'racists' - no matter what we do, so we might as well wear it as a badge of honour!)

The blog White House Dossier says: "Biden's metaphor fits naturally into what is a clear strategy to make minorities afraid of Republicans. Whether planned or not, it emanates from the campaign playbook. It stinks."

It is, of course, offensive to accuse people of wanting to re-introduce slavery.

But there is such a thing as being too sensitive. So, what in all other countries would be a fairly normal metaphor is seen here as an outrage.

Sometimes it seems as if a curious moral equivalence has been established - merely mentioning the past treatment of African-Americans is just as bad as racism itself.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Builderberg Gr. already made decision who will be next President of USA ( R&R will be “pace of cake” for Obama’s re-election)… Noise about Presidential election is diversion from real problems: unemployment, dysfunctional Congress , US economy and houses market depression…Go Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Americans(all Americans) seem to forget that the republican party was founded as a anti-slavery party when the Whig party collapsed
    For better than a hundred years the democratic party gave the Afro-Americans easy money.As long as they stayed uneducated and voted the democratic party things went smoothly.
    Eventually the Afro-Americans realized what was happening.They became educated republicans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    19:Kingsley O:There is no evidence that the emphasis being put on voter identification has any source other than opposition to fraud. When some states have more people on the voting rolls than they showed in the census, to suspect there's a problem with voter fraud in this country is reasonable. As they say in Chicago, "Vote early, vote often" in the same election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    It was not obvious to me why "back in chains" would be interpreted as a comment on race. The Right doth protest too much - after all, chains have been used for other than slavery, and long before the Atlantic slave trade. Why do they jump to assume it's a comment on the whiteness of Romney/Ryan?

    On the other hand, Biden needs to go - he's amusing but not helpful. Hillary for VP!

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Frankly, it doesn't matter what any of you Brits think about the US presidential race. A majority of US voters are sick of Obama. He will lose on Nov. 6.


Comments 5 of 170



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