The vice president shows why he's on the ticket – and it's not just to appeal to working-class whites
I finally understand why Mitt Romney got a standing ovation from the NAACP when he ended his disrespectful speech Wednesday: because it was over.
Like Romney, Joe Biden was booed by the civil rights group – when he signaled he was nearly finished by saying, “Let me close.” This crowd didn’t want to let Biden finish – and I don’t think our garrulous VP gets that a lot. But Biden was everything Romney wasn’t, making the Republican’s awkward Wednesday appearance look even more ridiculous by contrast.
Hilariously, right-wingers are trying to foment black resentment of the fact that President Obama sent Biden to address the NAACP rather than going on his own. But Biden may have more cultural capital with the older-generation members of the group than the president does. He opened his speech by saying, “It’s good to be home,” and noting he’s a lifelong NAACP member. He hailed old friends from his days in Wilmington, Del., including a “Rev. Wright” who Michelle Malkin, unbelievably, tried to insist was Chicago’s Jeremiah Wright (You can’t make this stuff up.) Biden also called out to a Delaware NAACP leader named “Mouse,” who Biden said “got my back a bunch of times,” when he was the only white guy at an early job. (The Obama-Biden campaign just emailed to say: “Clearly he [Biden] was referencing a different Reverend Wright — the Vice President was referring to an old friend from Delaware.”)
Apart from his early shout-outs to the crowd, Biden mostly delivered his standard stump speech, with a little more call and response. He talked about Obama’s decision to kill Osama bin Laden, laid out the campaign’s extensive women’s rights pitch, and detailed the accomplishments of the stimulus and the auto industry rescue. Nothing terribly different from what he says to other groups, although he noted Romney’s tax plan, which cuts the Earned Income Tax Credit, would raise taxes for about 2 million African-American families while cutting them for the Romney family.
The speech was tailored to the NAACP on two issues: education and the one Romney wouldn’t touch, voter suppression. On education, he mocked Romney for insisting class size doesn’t matter, and that lowering class size might even hurt students, sneering, “Tell that to the private schools.”
And on voting rights, Romney and Republicans “see a different future, where voting is made harder, not easier,” Biden said, asking, “Did you think we’d be fighting these battles again?”
Biden ticked off Obama’s accomplishments with fierce pride, calling the president “my guy,” and exhibiting a widely shared anger at his treatment by the GOP. He was the right person to send to the NAACP after Romney’s debacle. Reminiscing about being the only white guy at his Wilmington job back in the day, protected by his friend “Mouse,” Biden is now the white guy who’s got the back of our only black president when he needs it. This is why even though I’d love to see Hillary Clinton back in electoral politics, it’s a crazy notion to remove Joe Biden as VP. He’s absolutely the white guy for the job.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." More Joan Walsh.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11