Joe Biden’s Ethics Catch-22

OK, we get it: he’s an idiot. But why is he Vice-President?

Speaking to a large crowd in Virginia estimated to be about 40% African-American, Vice-President Joe Biden proclaimed that “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 y’all back in chains.”

Telling an audience of blacks that the other Presidential candidate and his party plans to put them back in chains is unequivocally dirty campaigning, race-baiting, divisive, and uncivil, the precise kind of campaigning that Barack Obama swore that he would deliver us from in 2008. Now the Obama campaign, as well as his Administration, has embraced divisiveness as a primary strategy, and outrageous scaremongering with a racial bite is also consistent with the current principle-free attack mode by the Democrats, which has included accusing Mitt Romney of being a felon, a tax-evader and a murderer.

Yet the media line on the Biden speech is that “Republicans” have screamed foul. A Vice-President of the United States, running for re-election with an African-American President, telling black Americans that the opposition plans to put them back in chains? Why are just Republicans screaming foul? Why isn’t every decent Democrat, progressive, reporter, pundit and member of the public screaming foul? Is this really what they all consider appropriate, honest, respectful and civil campaigning for the highest offices in the land, by one of the occupants of those offices?

Despicable campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter—the fact that President Obama allows this dishonest and Machiavellian woman to stay associated with his campaign is itself an indictment of his integrity—told MSNBC that Biden’s race-baiting was acceptable because it was “a metaphor.” “I think [the President] probably agrees with Joe Biden’s sentiments,” Cutter said. “I mean he’s using a metaphor about what’s going to happen.”  And what is that metaphor, Stephanie? What’s “going to happen” that can be metaphorically described as “putting y’all back in chains” ?  I honestly don’t know. To me, putting blacks in chains is a metaphor for slavery. What does President Obama think it’s a metaphor for? Speaking of metaphors, I suppose that in Cutter’s grotesquely warped world, if Biden said that “They’re going to lynch you,” she’d be all right with that too. Metaphor, you know. For…well, for something that’s going to happen.

Cutter is beneath contempt.

But the White House and Joe have another defense for Biden too. He just got mixed up. Romney talked about “unshackling” Wall Street, which means eliminating some regulations. Shackles are chains, and this confused poor Joe so much that he started talking about chaining up black people. In other words, the Vice-President is an idiot.

And therein lies the problem. Biden can only be forgiven his embarrassing and debasing statements if we hold him to a lower standard, like we do Maxine Waters, Bill Maher, Michele Bachman, or Forrest Gump. None of these fools, however, is Vice-President. If we give Biden the benefit of such a standard, we must accept the fact that an utter dolt is a heartbeat away from the Presidency, and Barack Obama put him there.

In 2008 the national news media cracked out the old sexism and anti-rural biases to work overtime painting Sarah Palin as intellectually unqualified to be Vice-President, condemning John McCain as irresponsible for choosing her, and ignoring their journalistic duty to note that a much bigger dummy was running on the Democratic side. Now that the GOP has a Vice-Presidential nominee who, whatever he may be, is nobody’s fool, it might be tempting for the news media to question Biden’s fitness for office with the vigor that they dissected Palin.  Better late than never, after all, and Joe can be counted on to supply at least as many disturbing statements as Sarah did, once the press starts paying attention. “God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it,” Rudy Giuliani said of Biden today. “I mean, this guy just isn’t bright. He’s never been bright. He isn’t bright. People think well, he just talks a little bit too much. Actually, he’s just not very smart.”

Gee, really?

Either Joe Biden was executing  a race-based, civility-free, dirty campaign strategy that makes a mockery of the ideals Barack Obama claimed he stood for in 2008, or he’s too dim-witted to be Vice-President, and Obama chose him.  Take your pick.


Facts: CBS News

Sources: The Daily Caller 1, 2, 3

Graphic: Wikipedia

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

23 thoughts on “Joe Biden’s Ethics Catch-22

  1. Either Joe Biden was executing a race-based, civility-free, dirty campaign strategy that makes a mockery of the ideals Barack Obama claimed he stood for in 2008, or he’s too dim-witted to be Vice-President, and Obama chose him. Take your pick.

    False dilemma. It’s perfectly possible that both are true.

    And while the idea of Biden being one heartbeat away from the presidency is disturbing, it’s less disturbing than the idea that Nancy Pelosi was two heartbeats away.

    • It is perfectly possible that both are true. My point, which you correctly note is a bit obscured, is that the Obama Administration can’t use the idiot standard to excuse Joe’s below-the-belt rhetoric without admitting the President’s irresponsible choice.

  2. So nice to read a piece that nails the issue. I just want to point out that while your quote of him is an accurate transcription of what he said, the audio of what he said was much worse. There was a significant pause between, ‘unchain Wall Street’ and ‘They’re going to put y’all back in chains’. It was a deliberate metaphor that I upon listening too I got the sense he knew exactly what he was saying.

  3. If the audience was only 40% black, that means that most of the audience was white. I fail to see how this was race baiting, unless he singled out black people somehow in his speech (it didn’t look like he did). Instead, it appears that Biden was just continuing the metaphor that the other side, inconveniently enough, started. If Romney wants to unshackle Wall Street, then the ordinary people are in chains again, forced to carry the burden of bailing out the “too big to fail” companies’ bad decision making yet once again. It is not a bad metaphor, therefore I would say Biden is not an idiot or a race baiter, just a politician delivering a speech.

    • Really pathetic, deery.

      Your comment is partisan rationalization at its worst. If Biden had said instead, “they want to enslave you again” or “they want to put you back on the plantation,” would you still argue that the line wasn’t intended for the African Americans in the audience, which numbered between 400 and 500? How do bailouts translate into “chains”? Bailouts are voluntary, a choice by the government, and it was the last two administrations that did the bailing. t’s not just a poor metaphor for the alleged consequences of reforming Wall Street regulations, its an incomprehensible one. And Biden’s next sentence was: “He said he’s going to do nothing about stopping the process of outsourcing.” That’s a reference to employment, assembly lines, wages. Biden’s own context makes it clear he’s talking about work and working conditions, not bailouts. That means that when he was talking about chains, the slavery insinuation was direct and intentional.

      I repeat: why don’t Democrats and progressives have the integrity to condemn this sort of garbage rather than make excuses for it and attempt absurd rationalizations?

      • I’m still puzzled. Why would Biden only be talking to the black people in the audience? If he was going to do it that way, he would have said such remarks when he was talking in front of the NAACP, and he did no such thing. Most of the people in the audience were white. It makes even less sense to give a speech that would alienate half of your audience. Simpler explanation, Biden was making a clear reference to Romeny’s “unshackling” remarks, not race baiting.

        • Uh-huh.

          From Wikipedia:

          “Danville, VA became the last headquarters of the Confederate States of America within the space of a few days. Jefferson Davis stayed at the palatial home of William T. Sutherlin on April 3, 1865. It was in the Sutherlin home that Davis’ issued his final Presidential Proclamation. The final Confederate Cabinet meeting was held at the Benedict House (later destroyed) in Danville. Davis and members of his cabinet remained there until April 10, 1865, when news of Lee’s surrender forced them to flee southward. On the day of their departure, Governor William Smith arrived from Lynchburg, to establish his headquarters….A series of violent episodes of the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia occurred in Danville during the summer of 1963. On May 31, representatives of the black community organized as the Danville Christian Progressive Association (DCPA) demanded an end to segregation and job discrimination in Danville. A boycott of white merchants was declared, and a march to City Hall followed. Most of the marchers were high school students. They were met by police and city workers armed with clubs. The protesters were sprayed with fire hoses and hit with clubs. Around forty protesters needed medical attention. Marches and other protests continued for several weeks.[10] Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Danville and spoke at High Street Baptist Church about the brutality of the police force. He called it the worst police brutality he had seen in the South….The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) sent organizers to Danville to support the DCPA. They helped lead protest, including demonstrations at the Howard Johnson Hotel and restaurant on Route 29. The hotel was known for discriminating against blacks. A special grand jury indicted 13 DCPA, SCLC, and SNCC activists for violating the “John Brown” law. This law, passed in 1830 after a slave uprising, made it a serious felony to “..incite the colored population to acts of violence or war against the white population.” It became known as the “John Brown” law in 1860 because it was used to convict and hang abolitionist John Brown after his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859….By the end of August, over 600 protesters had been arrested in Danville on charges of inciting to violence, contempt, trespassing, disorderly conduct, assault, parading without a permit, and resisting arrest. Because of the large number of arrest on these charges, often the jails would be over crowded, protesters were housed in detention facilities in jurisdiction located near Danville, VA. The demonstrations failed to achieve desegregation in Danville which remained segregated until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

          The Danville area is one of the most concentrated areas of black voters in the state, which will be closely contested. To argue that Biden just happened to choose this “metaphor” while speaking in a town with Danville’s history strains credulity.

    • He said “put y’all BACK in chains”. See, had he said ‘put y’all in chains’ then maybe you would have a partisan leg to stand on, I would still disagree but it would at least be plausible. But, that’s not what he said, and there is only one group of people in that room to which ‘back in chains’ means something. The metaphor was, republicans will enslave black people. It was blatant race baiting, plain and simple.

  4. It’s a pretty clear case of race-baiting. It could be just a one-time slog into dirty campaigning, but I’m betting it’s part of a greater plan to help win back some of the votes Obama lost when he came out in favor of same sex marriage; something that many black voters are against.

  5. Biden spoke in Virginia, where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a city or town with some significance to either the Civil War or Civil Rights Movement. To me it just seems like faux outrage. “Oh no, Biden mentioned chains when they were, *gasp* some black people around!” Shackles ok, chains not ok. If Biden was really going for some sort of dog whistle, he has had plenty of opportunities to speak in front of groups that are majority black. Why wait until he is speaking in front of a majority white crowd?

      • Absolutely! the absurd lengths people go to to find dog whistles in conservative speech contrasted with deery’s deliberate obtuseness couldn’t be more clear. The insulting thing is that deery and others on the left think people don’t see it for what it is.

  6. Calling the first black president “the Food Stamp President”, stating that the president wants less people on welfare to work, telling the British that he (Romney) has a shared Anglo-Saxon heritage, none of that counts as a racial dogwhistle, but mentioning the word “chains” around some black people does count as a racial dog whistle? Such silliness. Stating metaphorically that the Republicans want to chain up the little guy to put him to work paying for the malfeasance of the big guys is not race baiting. Putting the word chains in there does not transform it into some racial screed, it is an obvious reference to the “unshackling” that Romney has promised to do with Wall Street. If anything, its the Romney camp that is trying to engender racial resentment on this issue.

          • Vernacular? Southern accent? Colloquialism? But nice use of a racially based pejorative, while accusing the other side of the same. Intentional irony?

            • I wouldn’t refer to the term “y’all” as ghetto speak, but I would call it pandering to a black audience (or, if you want to get technical, the black members of the audience).

              That is, unless you seriously expect us to believe that a 69-year-old white guy from Delaware routinely uses the word “y’all” in his daily conversation.

              So what next for the Vice Panderer? If asked to address the NAACP, will he greet the organization’s officials with high-fives, deliver his speech in rap form, and conclude it with a spinning break-dance move?

              • It’s pandering, just as Hillary and Obama’s slipping into South-speak before black groups is pandering; Republicans do it too. Romney is especially bad at it, in his case, when he gets “folksy.” I think I’ve posted on this at least once—it’s an integrity breach and unethical, in the sense that its an intent to deceive. But it also never works, and makes politicians doing it, like Biden, look foolish. It is so trivial compared to what politicians routinely do that it is de minimus—too minor to worry about, except that it is symptomatic of a flawed character.

    • That you are not embarrassed to indulge in this disingenuous garbage is miraculous. I just heard Jonathan Capehart of the Post, a shameless race-baiter, make almost these exact rationalizations, but I suppose you can’t lift them from someone objective and credible, because nobody objective and credible will disgrace themselves with such nonsense. Essentially what Capehart is saying, between the lines, is that Biden can get away with race-baiting because the GOP has been “racially insensitive’. Tit for tat. Translation: People finally got wise to us trying to suppress criticism of Obama and screaming racism every time he got well-deserved criticism for being a feckless, weak, lazy, unaccountable and ineffective leader, so now we’re shooting for outright racial divisiveness to keep that bloc of voters—blacks—whose overwhelming support can only be seen as race-based—in the bag.

      The trope that literally anything critical of Obama is racist has been a revolting theme of the Obama campaign and political strategy since 2008, and as many predicted, has become more overt and shameless as his legitimate arguments for re-election dwindle to nothing. Saying that a President whose term has witnessed the largest number of food stamp recipients in US history is “the Food Stamp President” is called “speaking the truth”, and his race shouldn’t shield him from the truth. Similarly an American politician calling attention to common heritage with a foreign nation while visiting is standard practice, and unless you are going to tell me that Jack Kennedy saying the same in Dublin—as he did— would have be racist if he was running against Obama rather than Nixon, and that Obama saying the same in Nigeria would also be racist, your “dog whistle” theory is, I’m sorry, too desperate to take seriously, except as serious proof that partisans are willing to shut their brains off.

      It has been the Obama way to concoct a racial interpretation of every word and tactic if there was any plausible hook at all. Parties have been saying they want to “Take back the country” since campaigns began, but it suddenly becomes racist because this President who proclaimed himself “post-racial” is in office? Desperate, pathetic, dishonest…just like the argument that telling a large black audience that Romney wants to put them “back” in chains isn’t a direct allusion to slavery. Of course it is. It it was accidental, Biden’s a fool, and owes an apology. It it was intentional, Biden’s still a fool, but also a hate-monger, and STILL owes an apology.

  7. It was a deliberate and meaningful use of “vernacular” to condescend to a group Dems knows are in their pocket. In that way it is both blatant and insulting.

  8. Great Post. I was initially a bit apprehensive about the outrage and how it was being represented but I am no longer. I find it abysmal that so many from media and the Democratic Party are going to such lengths to justify and support Biden’s comments. His comments are simply indefensible.

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