By Alexander Bolton - 09/07/12 02:34 AM EDT
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Vice President Biden on Thursday offered an eyewitness account of President Obama’s steely resolve under pressure to bring the nation back from the brink of collapse.
He acknowledged the country still has significant ground to cover to regain its former prosperity, but vowed Obama would finish the job.
“Folks, I’ve watched him. He never wavers. He steps up. He asks the same thing over and over again: How is this going to work for ordinary families? Will it help them?” Biden said.
“Our journey isn’t finished. We still have more to do. But today, I say to you, my fellow citizens: in the face of the deepest economic crisis in our lifetimes — this nation proved itself. We're as worthy as any generation that has gone before us,” he said.
“We’re on a mission to move this nation forward — from doubt and downturn, to promise and prosperity,” he added.
“A mission we will continue and a mission we will complete," Biden noted, in what could be seen as a jab at former President George W. Bush's famous "mission accomplished" line.
Sounding a theme former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel used earlier in the week, Biden recalled the precarious state of the economy when Obama took office, reciting headlines about plummeting markets and mass layoffs.
Like first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday and former President Clinton on Wednesday, Biden testified to the president’s mettle under trying circumstances. While Michelle Obama spoke from her vantage as a spouse, and Clinton from his as a former president — who declared that no president including himself could have restored the nation to where it stood before the crisis — Biden spoke from his viewpoint 30 steps down the hall from the Oval Office.
Peppering his speech with the simple, chatty language for which he is known — appealing to "folks" several times — Biden recounted the daunting challenge of having to “restore the confidence not only of the nation — but the entire world” with the knowledge that one bad policy decision could cause bank runs or a credit collapse and send unemployment numbers even higher.
Throughout the speech he emphasized Obama’s decisiveness and resolution while making hugely important choices affecting the nation’s future.
“And because of the decisions he’s made, and the strength the American people have demonstrated every day, America has turned the corner. After the worst job loss since the Great Depression, we’ve created 4.5 million private-sector jobs in the past 29 months,” he said.
Among them was the decision to bail out the American automobile industry and send a team of commandos on a highly risky mission to assassinate Osama bin Laden.
“This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart and steel in his spine. And because of all the actions he took, because of the calls he made — and because of the grit and determination of American workers — and the unparalleled bravery of our special forces — we can now proudly say — Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”
Biden said Mitt Romney, the GOP nominee, would likely have acted differently, citing his record as chief executive officer at Bain Capital, a target of Democratic attacks throughout this campaign.
“I just don’t think he understood — I just don’t think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way. Balance sheets. Write-offs,” he said. “Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But it’s not the way to lead your country from its highest office.”
Touching on his long service as the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden question Romney’s readiness for the world stage.
The vice president talked about sitting in the White House Situation Room for days debating the risks of issuing the kill order for bin Laden — and voiced doubt Romney would have done the same:
“When he was asked about bin Laden in 2007, he said, and I quote, ‘it’s not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.’ He was wrong.”
He also mocked Republicans for pledging at their convention in Tampa, Fla., to make tough choices but talking about few details of their policy plans, following up on Clinton’s efforts the previous evening to rebut GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s claims about cuts to Medicare in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
“What they didn’t tell you, is that their plan would immediately cut benefits to more than 30 million seniors already on Medicare. What they didn’t tell you is what they’re proposing would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016. And what they really didn’t tell you is, they’re not for preserving Medicare. They’re for a whole new plan. They’re for VoucherCare,” Biden said to big applause.
Biden returned to more somber themes by remembering the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq and empathizing with million of families across the country struggling under tough economic circumstances.
As tears welled in his blue eyes, Biden promised the president would finish his mission of restoring the country to the prosperity and sense of national security it enjoyed at the start of the millennium, before Republicans took over the White House.
“The journey of hope is not yet finished, but we are on our way. The cause of change is not fully accomplished, but we are on our way. So I say to you tonight, with absolute confidence,” he said. “America’s best days are ahead of us, and, yes, we are on our way.”