One of a vice president's most important duties, especially in an election year, is to serve as a pit bull and sometimes say what a president cannot. Vice President Joe Biden, who is both beloved and maligned for his outspokenness, used his address at the NAACP's annual convention in Houston Thursday morning, to rebut several of the points Republican Mitt Romney made in his speech on Wednesday.
Biden began his speech by making observations about Obama's character and the courage he showed by following through on his convictions to help the country move forward even when some of his choices where not popular, such as the stimulus package, the auto industry bailout and the Affordable Care Act.
"More than any other office in the land, the presidency is about character. The character of your convictions, whether you put country above politics," Biden said. "From the very moment that Barack Obama took his hand off that Bible on that cold January day on the Mall, he's done just that. He has put country first."
He pointed to a broad range of issues, from the economy to education to national defense, to show "fundamental differences" between Obama's policies and Romney's, and their impact on the African-American community.
The Obama administration views education as "central to the vision of how to assure America's ascendency throughout the 21st century" and particularly important for minority children, Biden said. He argued that education is a "back-burner issue" for Romney and his Republican congressional allies, citing a budget proposal that cuts early- and special-education funding, Pell grants for low-income students, Title I funding for low-performing schools and elimination of the tuition tax credit.
Biden also spoke about the hot-button issue of voting rights, which Romney notably avoided in his remarks, and the new laws being implemented around the country that will make it harder for African-Americans and other groups to register to vote and cast ballots in November. He recalled long-gone days when he worked side by side with Republicans to expand registration and voting options so that more people could participate in the democratic process.
"They see a different future where voting is made harder, not easier. Where the Justice Department is even prohibited from challenging any of those efforts to suppress votes," he said. "There's a lot more to say, but this is preaching to the choir."
The vice president closed his remarks by asking an audience that clearly didn't want him to stop speaking to imagine what the Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court would look like under Romney.
"This election in my view is a fight for the heart and soul of America. The best way to sum up the president's view, my view and I think your view, is we see an America where in the words of the Scripture, what you do unto the least of my brethren you do unto me," he said to cheers. "As [the president] says we are our brother's keeper, we are our sister's keeper, we have an obligation. I believe this election will come down to character, conviction and vision. And it will not surprise you, I don't even think it's a close call."
There has been much debate about the sincerity of Romney's appearance before the NAACP on Wednesday. Was he there to address the issues most important to African-Americans or to make a point to moderate white voters that he is open-minded and inclusive while also showing his conservative base that he won't pander to liberals by pledging to repeal the health care reform law and taking the boos that went with it, critics asked.
"It makes [Romney] look like he's having character and integrity when he wasn't really speaking to the NAACP audience at all," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed after the Republican spoke.
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)