Vice President Joseph R. Biden on Thursday attacked former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, an adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for plotting to roll back civil rights gains if Mr. Romney defeats President Obama in November.
"Just close your eyes and imagine what the Romney Justice Department will look like," Mr. Biden said at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's annual gathering in Houston. "Imagine when his senior adviser on constitutional issues is Robert Bork. Imagine the recommendations for who is likely to be picked as attorney general or the head of the Civil Rights Division."
Mr. Bork, a former solicitor general in the Nixon administration who was rejected by the Senate in 1987 for a seat on the Supreme Court, is a co-chairman of the Romney campaign's justice advisory committee.
The vice president said a Romney administration would make voting "harder, not easier," and added that the election "is a fight for the heart and soul of America."
The emphasis on control of the Justice Department drew an enthusiastic response from the delegates, who approved an "emergency resolution" Tuesday denouncing the House's bipartisan votes to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in criminal and civil contempt of Congress. The resolution called the votes against Mr. Holder, under fire from lawmakers over his handling of the botched "Fast and Furious" gunrunning operation, as a "travesty of justice."
The NAACP said the resolution was intended to "express their outrage at the treatment of the first African-American and one of the best attorney generals in history."
Mr. Romney spoke at the NAACP convention a day earlier, saying he is the candidate who will improve the economic condition of blacks in America. The audience booed Mr. Romney when he pledged to repeal "Obamacare," although many in the audience did give him a standing ovation when he finished his remarks.
Mr. Biden, by contrast, was greeted with cheers throughout his address, and often with calls of affirmation as he listed the differences between President Obama and the Republicans.
With black unemployment at 14.4 percent, the vice president didn't talk much about jobs, instead focusing on themes of economic fairness and opportunity.
"We see education as the single most important criteria for minority children," Mr. Biden said, claiming that education "doesn't play a central role" in Mr. Romney's agenda.
"It's on the back burner," he said.
Mr. Obama chose not to speak at the civil rights group's meeting this year. His campaign said he had a scheduling conflict. But the president had a light schedule at the White House on Thursday before embarking for campaign trips in Virginia on Friday and Saturday.
The president did send greetings to the convention through a taped video address that was played in the main hall.
In 2008, Mr. Obama received 95 percent of the black vote.
"I'm sorry I can't be here in person with you this year," Mr. Obama said. "I stand on your shoulders. I'm proud of all that you do."
Mr. Obama did speak to the group in 2009; first lady Michelle Obama addressed the conference last year.
The president is scheduled to speak to the National Urban League on July 25.
Mr. Biden outlined differences between the Obama administration and Mr. Romney's agenda on health care, energy and women's rights.
"I believe this election will come down to character, conviction and vision," Mr. Biden said. "And it will not surprise you — I don't think it's even a close call. So it's time for the NAACP to do what it's always done ... To stand up. Make our case. Stand our ground. And make real our vision for America."
Mr. Romney told the convention that his policies would help "families of any color more than the policies and leadership of President Obama."
"I have no hidden agenda," Mr. Romney said. "If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him."
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