August 15th, 2012

Artur Davis talks with CNN about the vice president’s comments

Today on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, former Rep. Artur Davis, who once helped Barack Obama get into the White House and has now shifted his support to Mitt Romney, joined CNN’s Wolf Blitzer today to discuss the vice president’s recent controversial comments. Davis said, “I know what Joe Biden was doing yesterday — and every black person in that room knew who the ‘ya’ll’ was, knew what the chains were about, knew what the metaphor was!

Highlights are after the jump and a full transcript from the interview will be posted on


Transcript Highlights

BLITZER: What was one or two issues that most disappointed you or surprised you as far as President Obama is concerned and cause you to leave his side?

DAVIS: Wolf, I have to tell you, I don’t have to go any further than 24 hours ago.  When I heard the vice president of the United States, someone I grew up admiring, someone i’ve been on platforms with, when I heard him go to Danville, Virginia, and talk about politics in a way that no serious candidate ought to talk about it, when I heard him reach the bottom of the deck and talk about one party putting people in chains, when I heard someone I had admired and been on platforms with talk about ordinary conservative principles as being essentially racial viciousness — because that’s the allegation he was making yesterday — I was disappointed by it.

But I have to tell you it brought back memories of me.  It brought back memories of Democratic politicians in the South who think they can go before black crowds and say one thing, that nobody else will hear it and they can get a cheer in the room, and they can blithely go on about their business.  That’s not the way you can do politics anymore because of the media and I think Vice President Biden — I hope Vice President Biden learned an important lesson. You can’t say one thing to a certain kind of people thinking nobody else is hearing you.

BLITZER: There were TV cameras there.  I assume he knew that everyone would be watching an event like this. It wasn’t simply a closed-door event.

But what the campaign, the Obama campaign says is he was simply referring to what Republicans have said that they want to, quote, “unshackle big business in the United States and get rid of many of the regulations.”  And he was responding to that.  Does that make sense to you?

DAVIS: Wolf, I know that’s the spin.  And it’s creative.  I’ll give them credit for creativity.  But I happen to have spoken to a few African-American audiences in my time, representing predominantly African-American district. I know what Joe Biden was doing yesterday.  And every black person in that room knew who the y’all was.  They knew what the chains were about.  They knew what the metaphor was.

And I will give that audience credit.  If you listen to a tape of that audience, you actually hear what appear to be boos, or what appears to be shock from some people in that audience.  That says a lot that is very good about people in that audience that when Joe Biden went to a place he never should have gone then instead of getting the cheers he just knew he’d get, he got a negative reaction from a lot of the African-Americans in the room.  That doesn’t lift up Joe Biden or excuse his comments, but it says something positive about the people in that audience.


BLITZER: Well, let me be precise before we move on.  What are you saying that this represents, this underscores, as far as the vice president is concerned?

DAVIS: It’s a divisive tactic that’s insulting to African-Americans.  It’s insulting to the American people.  It’s an insult to the legacy that he used to build up as an orator who knew how to inspire people instead of strike fear in people’s hearts.

And it ought to embarrass President Obama.  President Obama has talked so movingly about our country moving beyond race, and his own vice president makes this kind of comment yesterday?  It was wrong.  And the president ought to be embarrassed by it.  And the president ought to say it was wrong.


BLITZER: So you’re with Romney when he says that President Obama is running a campaign of anger and hate and jealousy?

DAVIS: Governor Romney is absolutely right when he says the Obama campaign is running a divisive campaign that routinely — it wasn’t just yesterday, it’s been a routine for the last year pitting one set of Americans against another on issue after issue.  It wouldn’t be so bad if Barack Obama had not campaigned in such a different way.  He’s doing what any politician does who’s running, who’s struggling in the polls and has a 45 percent approval rating and has a bad economy.  He’s trying to change the subject.  He’s doing what ordinary politicians do.

But Barack Obama said four years ago that he was no ordinary politician.  And so many of us believed him when he said that.  That’s the sad thing about what’s happened in this campaign.