Should Joe Biden apologize for his 'back in chains' quip?

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week

The GOP cranks up the heat on the vice president over a controversial remark, but the Obama campaign says the complaints are just a distraction

High-powered Republicans are demanding an apology from Vice President Joe Biden for telling a mostly black audience last week that Mitt Romney wants to unchain Wall Street, but "put y'all back in chains." Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum accused Biden of "playing the race card," and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said the vice president was making an "absolutely blatant appeal to racism." Republicans have called the remarks grounds for President Obama to throw Biden off the ticket and replace him with Hillary Clinton. Democrats defended Biden, saying there "isn't a racist bone" in his body, and Obama campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Romney campaign supporters were just "whining" about Biden's choice of words to distract from his message — that the GOP cares more about wealthy bankers than the working class. Was Biden making a legitimate point, or should he say sorry?

In the name of civility, Biden should apologize: "Liberals routinely dismiss Biden's gaffes as the rhetorical excesses of an overly exuberant speaker — it's 'Joe being Joe,'" says The Boston Globe in an editorial. But Mitt Romney or his running mate, Paul Ryan, "would be pilloried for racial insensitivity" for making a crack about slavery. Biden isn't the worst offender against civility in American politics, "but he's an offender nonetheless, and he should apologize."
"Biden should apologize for 'back in chains' remark"

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But Biden isn't actually sorry: Biden won't apologize because his "inflammatory rhetoric" was no gaffe, says Paul Mirengoff at Power Line. It was an attempt to rally black voters behind Obama, because Obama will probably need to carry the black vote as overwhelmingly as he did in 2008 to win the election. Walking back Biden's remark "would amount to a concession that the Republicans don't actually have it in for African-Americans," which is not something Obama is eager to admit.
"Why didn’t Team Obama walk back Joe Biden's remark?"

Republicans don't deserve an apology: What Biden said was "wince-worthy," says Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post, but "neither the vice president nor the Obama-Biden re-election campaign has anything to apologize for." Romney is accusing Obama and Biden of stirring up "division and anger and hate," but his whining is galling given his party's "birther lies" and "relentless obstruction, recalcitrance, and rudeness" toward Obama. The GOP should spare us the hypocritical "scripted outrage."
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Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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