Vice President Joe Biden told the Latino rights group National Council of La Raza on Tuesday that "Mitt Romney wants you to show your papers, but he won't show us his." Biden's brutal broadside blended two regular Obama campaign attacks on the Republican standard-bearer, touching on his hard-line immigration policy and his refusal to release past tax returns.
Biden, speaking to the organization's annual conference in Las Vegas, combined vitriolic assaults on Republicans with his customary warm personal stories -- at one point joking about the lack of privacy in his crowded boyhood home.
"Those walls were awful thin. I don't know how the hell my parents did it. But that's a different story," he said, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd.
But the main order of business seemed to be tearing down Romney.
"When his father [George Romney] was a candidate for president in 1968, his father released 12 years of tax returns because, as he said, and I quote, 'One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show,'" Biden said.
"His son has released only one year of his tax returns, making a lie of the old adage: Like father, like son," the vice president said. "He wants you to show your papers, but he won't show us his. It's kind of fascinating."The Romney campaign hit back, with spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg saying that "the Hispanic community has been hit disproportionately hard in the Obama economy, with an unemployment rate of 11 percent and millions more Hispanics living in poverty since he took office."
"Yet Vice President Biden would rather engage in cynical and dishonest character attacks than discuss how to create jobs and promote opportunity for all Americans," she told Yahoo News by email.
Recent polls have shown Obama with a commanding lead over Romney among Latino voters, often described as the fastest-growing population in America. But with an approval rating generally in the 40s and voters angry about the fitful economic recovery, the president has been leaving nothing to chance as he works to reassemble the coalition that powered his historic 2008 run.
The Obama campaign has been pounding Romney on the issue of immigration for weeks. But Biden's remarks are the highest-profile attack to date that combine that assault with the campaign's relentless demands that the former Massachusetts governor release more than the one year of tax returns that he has made public.
Biden warned the organization that "there are voices among us who fear your inclusion" and cautioned that a Romney presidency would roll back civil rights and voting rights.
"Close your eyes and imagine — imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after four years of a Romney presidency. Literally, just imagine," he said. "Imagine the court with two more Scalias, or two more Roberts on the court. Imagine. Imagine what it will be like. Imagine what it will mean for civil rights, voting rights and so much more."
"Imagine a Justice Department that supports rather than challenges the continued effort to suppress the right to vote," he said. That appeared to be a reference to ongoing efforts by Republican-led states to require would-be voters to produce photo identification -- or clear other hurdles -- to cast a ballot.
Biden also knocked Romney's spending plans, warning that social spending would pay the price if Congress enacted the Republican's tax-cut proposals.
"If you all sit on your hands this race, it will not be because we didn't know what the world will look like, four, six, and eight years from now. The consequences will not just be immediate, they'll be long term," he warned.
Speaking of the Republican candidate, the vice president said "he's not a bad man, he's a decent family man." But he sharply criticized Romney on immigration, on his vow to veto the DREAM Act, on his boast of vetoing legislation to give free in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants and on what Biden called Romney's "unequivocal" support of a tough Arizona law partly struck down by the Supreme Court recently.
Biden also defended Obama's call for extending Bush-era tax cuts that chiefly benefit the middle class while letting expire those that mostly benefit the ultra rich.
"Wealthy people are just as patriotic as poor people. But nothing has been asked of them to get us out of this God-awful hole," he said.
Holly Bailey contributed reporting.
UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.: This post has been updated to replace Biden's prepared remarks with his speech as delivered.