Biden to invoke Obama in defense of civil rights record

White House hopeful Joe Biden will invoke former President Obama during a campaign speech Saturday as he continues to defend his civil rights record.

Speaking in Sumter, S.C., the former vice president will say that his views have changed along with the country’s. But he will also note that he was vetted by Obama before being tapped as his running mate.

{mosads}”America in 2019 is a very different place than the America of the 1970s. And that’s a good thing,” Biden will say, according to a transcript of his remarks circulated by his campaign. “I’ve witnessed an incredible amount of change in this nation and I’ve worked to make that change happen. And yes — I’ve changed also.”

“It was the honor of a lifetime to serve with a man who was a great President, an historic figure, and most important to me — a friend,” he will say. “I was vetted by him and selected by him. I will take his judgment of my record, my character, and my ability to handle the job over anyone else’s.”

Biden served as vice president under Obama, the first black president, and has sought to align himself closely with the former commander in chief, who remains largely popular within the Democratic Party.

Biden’s remarks Saturday come more than a week after he faced a blistering confrontation from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during the first presidential primary debates over his comments praising his ability to work with segregationist senators during his time in Congress and his previous stance on school busing.

Biden said this week he was “not prepared” for the exchange with Harris. 

“I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn’t prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me,” Biden told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in an interview. 

Harris, during the debate, said she did not believe Biden was a racist, but said it was “hurtful” to hear the former vice president talk about his work with segregationist senators. Harris, who is black, also delivered an impassioned response to Biden’s previous stance on federally mandated busing, describing how she benefited from the practice as a young girl in Berkeley, Calif. 

“You also worked with them to oppose busing, and you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools,” she said, speaking directly to Biden. “And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”

Biden’s lead shrank in several statewide and national primary polls as Harris soared, indicating the exchange made at least a temporary dent in his front-runner status.

Harris’s campaign moved to dismiss Biden’s planned remarks Saturday, saying there are “no free passes.”

“Every candidate’s record will (and should) be scrutinized in this race. It’s a competition to become President of the United States. There are no free passes,” Harris’s campaign spokesman, Ian Sams, tweeted. 

The former vice president has refused to apologize for his past stances on civil rights, saying his record speaks for itself and claiming that his positions on certain issues have being taken out of context.

“If you look at the issues I’ve been attacked on, nearly every one of them is for something well before 2008. It’s as if my opponents want you to believe I served from 1972 until 2008 — and then took the next eight years off. They don’t want to talk much about my time as Vice President,” he will say Saturday.

Biden’s remarks Saturday will be made in a crucial early voting state that will likely test his strong support among black voters.

Tags Barack Obama Chris Cuomo Joe Biden
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