The White House on Thursday defended Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s rhetoric that more Americans will be raped and killed if Republican lawmakers reject part of President Obama’s jobs bill that would pay for more police officers on the street.
The remark has sparked fury among some conservative commentators and a direct rebuke from the Republican National Committee, which characterized Mr. Biden’s comments as “irresponsible and mean-spirited” and called on the media and women’s groups to condemn his words.
“No victim of violent crime would ever wish that others were forced to experience the same trauma they went through — especially to make a brazen political point,” the RNC said. “So why would the sitting vice president of the United States?”
But Mr. Biden has shown no signs of backing down and the White House on Thursday contended that the facts were on the vice president’s side.
“It would be hard to find anyone who doesn’t agree with the simple equation that fewer police officers on the street has a direct effect on the crime rate,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “That’s the point he was making, and that’s a point that the president absolutely does share.”
Several times in the past week, Mr. Biden has claimed that more Americans will become victims of serious crimes of all kinds if Congress fails to approve the jobs bill.
“Murder will continue to rise, rape will continue to rise, all crime will continue to rise,” Mr. Biden said Wednesday at the Capitol.
A day earlier in Philadelphia, the vice president ridiculed GOP lawmakers for arguing that any perceived benefits of the legislation would be temporary.
“Let me tell you, it’s not temporary when that 911 call comes in and a woman’s being raped,” Mr. Biden said, his voice rising in anger. “If a cop shows up in time to prevent the rape, it’s not temporary to that woman. It’s not temporary to the guy whose store is being held up and has a gun being pointed to his head if a cop shows up and he’s not killed. That’s not temporary to that store owner. Give me a break — temporary.
“These guys who thought it was temporary, I wish they had some notion what it’s like be on the other side of a gun or a 200-pound man standing over you telling you to submit.”
Conservatives say Mr. Biden’s words were inflammatory and misguided for linking crime rates to government spending, arguing that stimulus money has been spent on many projects that did not improve public safety.
But Mr. Carney said the GOP was missing the point.
“Are Republicans arguing that there is no correlation between the number of cops on the beat and the crime rate?” Mr. Carney asked. “That would be an interesting argument to hear. Yes, we are saying that more police officers on the beat is a good thing and will help keep crime rates lower.”
Changes in crime rates from year to year have many possible explanations, from changing demographics to the number of officers deployed on the street versus the number of police assigned to desk jobs. The FBI reported that overall crime in the U.S. was down sharply in 2010 — murder was down 4.2 percent from the previous year, rape down 5 percent and robberies down 10 percent, compared with 2009.
The decrease in crime rates came at a time when most state and local governments already were well into severe budget cuts and layoffs of public employees.