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The Obama campaign must have sensed the danger of such context. A campaign official told ABC News Biden “was clearly using a metaphor to describe the devastating impact of deregulating Wall Street and the financial industry, as well as how Governor Romney’s policies would take us back to the same failed formula that led to the 2008 financial crisis–the same failed formula that benefited a few, but crashed our economy and hurt the middle class.”
Yet as former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer contended via Twitter, some metaphors are apparently more acceptable than others. He noted that Sarah Palin was hammered when she used the term “blood libel” to describe the media’s obsessive criticism of her. “The press pounded Palin when she talked about ‘blood libel,’” Fleischer wrote. “What will they do about Biden’s ‘chains’ remark?”
CNN provided a rather telling answer to that question. In the opening paragraph of story on the controversy, they said Biden “leveled a heavy charge at Mitt Romney” arguing that the Republican’s policies “would be detrimental for Americans.” Yet further in the piece, they said it was Republicans who made the racial connection between the vice president’s remarks and slavery — even as they conceded that “Biden was speaking to a largely black crowd in Danville, in the heart of Virginia, a city with a long history of racial tension.” The Huffington Post compared Biden’s remarks to a statement made by Republican Rick Santorum during his presidential run, when he referred to “chains called ‘Obamacare.” CBS News made sure to use the term “diverse crowd, including many African Americans” to describe who Joe Biden was addressing, even as they ignored any reference to slavery at all.
Yet perhaps the most fascinating word Biden used wasn’t “chains.” As Wikipedia notes the word “y’all” has its origins in the Southern United States and is “associated with Southern American English, African-American Vernacular English.” Is “y’all” part of Joe Biden’s regular speech pattern, or was he in fact a making exactly the kind of not-so-subtle inference Republicans (and apparently only Republicans, according to the media) contend?
We may likely never know Biden’s intention, and the ambiguity may itself have been the intention. But one thing is certain: Biden’s penchant for making unscripted remarks remains a large X factor in this campaign. And sure enough, towards the end of his speech, the Vice President once again reminded Americans why the term “Bidenism” is part of the political lexicon. “With you we can win North Carolina again, and if we do, we win the election if we win you,” he said to the Danville crowd.
As noted in the opening paragraph, Danville is in Virginia.
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