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Friday, August 17, 2012

White House Response To Biden's "Back In Chains" Comment

“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." - Vice President Joe Biden, August 14, 2012

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about Vice President Biden's remarks where he told a crowd of African American, Democratic supporters in Danville, VA earlier this week that Romney plans to put African Americans "back in chains".


Obviously, when you read about this story, or watch the Vice President's speech, an immediate reference to Africans and slavery came to mind.

Carney defended that reference saying "no one thought that."

We did.

Here's the exchange that took place during yesterday's press briefing.

Reporter's question:   What are you saying to Republicans who say that the Vice President's comments about putting people back in chains is an example of why he should be replaced on the ticket?     


MR. CARNEY:  Well, I'd say a couple of things.  One is, they know that what they're saying about this is ridiculous.  The Vice President was clearly making, as he repeated later, a statement about the Republican insistence that if they are able to by taking control of the White House, they will immediately repeal Wall Street reform -- Wall Street reform that was put in place and fought for by this President because we cannot afford to have happen what happened in the financial sector to this country just a few short years ago. 

We need to make it impossible for the taxpayers to be holding the bag when big institutions fail, if they fail.       We need to make sure that we have the consumer protections in place that are part of Wall Street reform that were fought tooth and nail by Wall Street and by Republicans on the Hill.  And the point was obvious to, I know, everyone in this room, to every one in that room, and to every Republican who is making this charge that that's what the Vice President was talking about.       So I understand -- going back to my other point -- that there's an attempt to distract attention from the actual substance of the discussion, which is should we or should we not have Wall Street reform.  They don't want to talk about that because they know that most Americans answer that question, "Absolutely, definitely yes."  But they're opposed to it.        Should we or should we not turn Medicare into a voucher system that costs seniors an extra $6,400 per person, per year?  Overwhelmingly, the American people say no.  But Republicans don't want to debate that because they know that's the answer.       So, look, we're going to keep talking about the issues.  And there's going to be along the road here, as there always is, an attempt to distract attention from the issues when one side is losing the debate over the issues.  And that's what we're seeing right now.      

Reporter's question:   But does he just regret the choice of words?  Because some took it as a reference to slavery.  And he had a chance to go back --

MR. CARNEY:  Nobody took it as a reference to --

Q    -- and he said, I always say exactly what I mean.        


MR. CARNEY:  -- anything, except for those who are trying to make something out of nothing here and distract attention from the policy debates.  This is -- you know that's not what this is about.  You know he was talking, if you look at what he said, about Wall Street reform, about the desire of some to put banks and Wall Street back in charge of your financial transactions and life.  That's not what this President believes is the right policy.   We understand that there's going to be efforts to distract attention from the policy debates because the other side is losing these policy debates pretty overwhelmingly.  But we're going to keep talking about the policy issues.

Carney was also asked if the President Obama had spoken to Vice President Biden about Biden's comment.

Has the President actually spoken to Vice President Biden about the "chains" comments, or does he plan to do so?     


MR. CARNEY:  I don't know if the President has had -- I mean, he speaks with the Vice President all the time.  I don't know if they -- I know you can see -- I think the President was asked about this and it was put out in one of his interviews yesterday that he absolutely understands and knows what the Vice President was talking about, as does everybody in this room -- I'm sure there are some exceptions who pretend otherwise -- but he was talking about Wall Street reform.  And you know that the President is one hundred percent with the Vice President in his commitment to ensuring that Wall Street reform stays in place.     

Q    I understand that he defended the Vice President, but was he frustrated at all that this took attention away from what he was trying to do in Iowa?     

MR. CARNEY:  Not that I saw.  I mean, look, I think that he understands what I was talking about earlier, that there are going to be confected distractions from the important issues of the day.  That's part of every campaign, and it's often the result of one side trying to change the subject when they're losing the debate on the substantive policy issues that matter most to the American people.  And there is no question that when it comes to protecting seniors on Medicare, when it comes to protecting businesses, small and large, that are part of our renewable energy sector, especially wind energy, that this President has been making very strong policy arguments, and that at a substantive level as well as at a level of support from the American people, he's winning those arguments. 

 Q    Does he have any concern that the Vice President will make these types of verbal missteps moving forward?     

MR. CARNEY:  I understand this unbelievable obsession about trivia, as I've been trying to discuss.  The fact of the matter is that the Vice President was talking about a policy issue, which there is an attempt to turn into an insubstantial campaign issue that's divorced from policy because Republicans don't want to talk about the fact that they are ardently in favor of repealing Wall Street reform because they know that the American people are determined to see that Wall Street reforms stay in place.

Romney has called Biden's remarks a new low for the Obama administration.

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