Biden calls GOP ticket out of touch with average Americans
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 9, 2008 - Telling supporters that a deteriorating national economy has put "the whole notion of the American dream on hold," Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden said the Republican ticket presents a serious threat to middle-class workers.
Speaking in the St. Louis area for the first time since his nomination, the U.S. senator from Delaware told several hundred people at Mehlville High School's gymnasium that Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, is out of touch with the average family.
"John McCain says the fundamentals of our economy are strong," Biden said. "John McCain says that under George Bush we've made great progress economically.
"I could walk from here to Springfield and I doubt that I would find anybody who says we are making great progress economically, unless I accidentally bumped into John McCain."
Biden's hourlong address hammered on issues important to this middle-class, heavily blue-collar area: jobs, health care, taxes and education.
He pointed to just-released statistics that showed a 6.1 percent national unemployment rate, the highest in five years and a net loss of 84,000 American jobs in August.
"They worked hard, they punched the clock, and one day they walked in and were told, 'Guess what, your job is gone.'
"And we talk about this like it's a statistic. These are people, these are individuals."
Many of those in the crowd -- some who waited more than three hours to see Biden -- wore Obama-Biden T-shirts or buttons.
Among the early arrivals were LaRita Heet, 40, a freelance writer from Kirkwood, and her two daughters, Sarah, 12, and Alex, 16. Heet said she is concerned about a recent poll that shows McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin picking up support among women.
Heet called Palin "a woman who is actually against women." She pointed specifically to her opposition to abortion rights and equal rights for gays. Many women, she said, see Palin as "another version of Hillary (Clinton) and nothing could be further from the truth."
Michael Taylor, 50, a landscaper from Affton, said health care and the Iraq War were major issues in deciding to support the Democratic ticket.
Iraq, he said, is "a war we never should have been in from the beginning."
Stephen Abrams, 27, of Shrewsbury, a student and teacher at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, says he is the only member of his family who is not staunchly Republican.
He, too, said the war was a determining factor in deciding to support Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and Biden.
Mary McMahon, 50, of Arnold stood in silent protest along Lemay Ferry Road, holding a sign that read, "Sen. Biden, you can't be Catholic and Pro-Abortion."
She said she had been a lukewarm supporter of McCain until he brought Alaska Gov. Palin onto the ticket.
Inside the gymnasium, area unions were well represented.
Bob Strinni, president of Mehlville Firefighters Local No. 1889, said the Democratic ticket takes the strongest stand on the issue of collective bargaining and union rights.
One of the speakers preceding Biden was Marie Williamson of Potosi, a Chrysler autoworker and union official who said the Democratic ticket would "protect the unions, who will protect the workers."
Also speaking was U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, a Democrat from Missouri's Third District, which includes the Mehlville area.
Carnahan ticked off a litany of what he described as Bush administration failures: the war in Iraq, the national debt, high gas prices, exporting jobs outside the U.S., record home foreclosures and record student loan debts.
"This the record John McCain bragged about," Carnahan said.
Carnahan called McCain's decision to name Palin to the ticket a mistake. "He buckled to the right wing," he said of McCain. "She has zero experience in national government, zero experience in foreign affairs. And there is no way you can dress up that record, even with a lot of lipstick." He was referring to Palin's joke at the Republican national convention in which she asked supporters whether they knew the difference between a "hockey mom and a pit pull.
"Lipstick," she said.
Biden said that even while McCain is trying to become a candidate for change, his words do not ring true.
"Every single impediment that is in the way of middle-class folks making it, every single serious problem this nation faces, from the energy crisis, straight through to health-care concerns, all the way to dealing with education. Name me one single thing that John McCain and Sarah Palin are talking about -- issues that affect our lives and our security -- where they disagree with George W. Bush.
"So, don't tell me about change, John. I'm in the Show-Me state. Show me what you are going to do about this."
In a statement to coincide with Biden's appearances in Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt countered that "the Obama-Biden plan is a plan to raise job-killing taxes on Missouri families and small businesses."
And Col. Jack Jackson, co-chair of the McCain campaign in Missouri, said, "Joe Biden should know that negative political rhetoric will only serve to drive this country further apart at a time when we need to be working together."