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Black caucus chairman: Biden comments amount to 'absolutely nothing'

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Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, downplayed Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s remarks earlier this week that Republicans wanted to “put y’all back in chains” at a campaign stop in Virginia, saying he made “absolutely nothing” of the comments.

“I would never have even paid much attention to it but for the fact that campaigns nowadays are waiting for any kind of little nugget to try to create an atmosphere of more and more discord, and so it makes absolutely no sense that some kind of a little throwaway line is now being used to make Vice President Biden appear to have been throwing out these words in order to somehow attract dumb African-Americans who, if they hear the words ‘chains,’ are going to automatically vote for him and President Obama,” Mr. Cleaver said Thursday on CNN’s “Starting Point.”

Mr. Biden was referring to Republican comments that the party wanted to “unshackle” Wall Street from regulations, later changing his words to reflect that.

But Mr. Cleaver said they didn’t amount to anything anyway — even though Mr. Biden was speaking to a crowd largely composed of blacks in the state that was home to the Confederate capital.

“The people out there weren’t thinking about the racial history — they came to hear the vice president,” he said.

Other blacks in the political sphere, however, have criticized Mr. Biden’s remarks. Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder — the nation’s first elected black governor — has never been shy in critiquing Mr. Biden, even suggesting at one point that Mr. Obama should drop him from the 2012 ticket in favor of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“First of all, without question, they were appeals to race,” Mr. Wilder, a Democrat, said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “I don’t know why he felt that he needed to do that at this stage. More importantly, the president doesn’t need this now. The president needs to be a part of bringing people together.”

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