Biden rips GOP ticket as undependable opportunists


Vice President Joe Biden makes a campaign stop in Ocala, FL on Wednesday October 31, 2012. About 2500 packed Tuscawilla Park for the event

Alan Youngblood/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 9:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 9:55 p.m.

Vice President Joe Biden visited Ocala on Wednesday, blasting his Republican rivals Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as pliable pitchmen who in the final days of the election have softened their rhetoric in order the capture the White House but not their desire to undermine America's middle class.

On issue after issue — from Middle East wars to women's needs to the nation's safety-net programs to taxes — Biden pounded the GOP ticket as opportunists who have backpedaled on their core message as Election Day nears, but whose policies, if enacted, would be setbacks for all but the wealthy.

"Folks, in case you haven't noticed, everything with Romney and Ryan depends," Biden told a crowd of enthusiastic Democratic loyalists gathered outside the Discovery Center near Tuscawilla Park.

"It depends on the hour. It depends on the audience. It depends on the polls. It depends on where they are. It depends on who they're talking to. It depends on how they feel. It just depends," said Biden, as raucous applause drowned out the end of his jab.

"You sure as heck can't depend on a president where everything depends."

President Barack Obama, on the other hand, offered a stark contrast to the Republicans, Biden insisted.

"Romney will say anything — anything — to win," Biden said.

"Our guy has character. He says what he means and means what he says and it never depends on who he's talking to. ... That cannot be said about Gov. Romney."

Biden spoke for about 35 minutes to crowd that Ocala Fire Rescue officials estimated to be 2,500 people.

In that time, Biden cited a litany of issues where the former Massachusetts governor and his running mate opposed administration policies that, according to Biden, had provided significant gains for working class Americans over the past four years.

On women's issues, he chided Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, for voting against the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which guarantees women an expanded opportunity to seek compensation for discrimination in pay.

He also criticized the GOP politicians for not speaking out against Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who recently said a pregnancy caused by rape "is something that God intended to happen."

"Sometimes silence can be deafening," Biden said. "Their refusal to condemn Mourdock says more about them than it does about Mourdock."

Biden attacked Romney for saying the U.S. government should have let auto companies fail instead of helping them stay afloat, when shuttering them would have tossed 400,000 Americans out of work.

Meanwhile, Biden noted, Romney was intent on maintaining tax loopholes for the wealthy that allowed him to pay a lower tax rate than most in the crowd.

Biden also highlighted that the Republicans have stopped talking about Romney's "massive" $5 trillion tax cut package because it provides $1.6 trillion in tax relief to people making at least $1 million a year and because, according to Biden, nonpartisan groups have found that it would raise taxes on the middle class by $2,000 a year.

"It was the central element of their organizing principle," Biden said. "All of a sudden it's vanished."

"His plans aren't sketchy. They're Etch-a-Sketchy," he said.

The nonpartisan group factcheck.org said the Democrats' condemnation of Romney's tax plan is based on a "twisted reading" of a study that analyzed it, and that Romney has said he intends to offset tax-rate cuts by eliminating unspecified deductions and taxing a wider base of income. Romney also has maintained that middle-income taxpayers will get a tax cut.

The vice president also ripped Romney and Ryan for wanting to shift Medicare to a voucher system and for wanting to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which safeguards people with pre-existing conditions and closed the "donut hole" in Medicare's prescription drug program among other benefits.

Yet, Biden suggested that on foreign policy Romney had found common ground with the president.

He noted that during the last presidential debate Romney agreed with many of Obama's stances, which seemed to counter his own earlier positions.

That included the administration's policies on Iraq and Afghanistan, and a warmer relationship with Russia that Romney had previously denounced.

"I didn't know if Romney was there to debate President Obama or endorse President Obama," Biden said.

Biden wrapped up his speech a little after 4 p.m. and headed over to Mimi's Café at the Heath Brook mall on State Road 200.

In the half-full restaurant, Biden took time to chat with several surprised diners.

Christina Rivera of Ocala said she was driving when she saw Biden's motorcade pass and made an illegal U-turn to catch up with the vice president's entourage.

She slipped into Mimi's and waited in the atrium for Biden to come out. She told him she was originally from Philadelphia and earned a hug from the vice president.

"I'm still shaking. I could pee myself," she said as she left. "He's awesome. I've been following Joe Biden for years. He and President Obama make the perfect team. He gives it to you like it should be. He's a great man."

Al Nemchek of Ocala also got a warm greeting from the vice president and a thank you from Biden after Nemchek told him he had voted for Obama that morning.

"I told him I hope you and President Obama make it," Nemchek recalled.

Biden spent several minutes talking to Jim Bitsko, his sister Joyce Monroe and a friend, Darryl Randll, all of whom had just attended the funeral for Bitsko's father Joseph, an 86-year-old Army veteran who recently passed away and was buried in the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

Biden was out of earshot of reporters. But Monroe said they discussed the fact the Biden's son had served in Iraq and being from Pennsylvania. Biden was born in Scranton, Pa., while Bitsko and Monroe were visiting from Pittsburgh.

"He was very comforting," Monroe said. "I felt like he was just trying to be sympathetic, like he understood."

Contact Bill Thompson at 867-4117 or bill.thompson@starbanner.com

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