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Biden presses Democrats to stress their differences with GOP

Joe Biden in stl
Bill Greenblat | UPI | 2010

Vice President Joe Biden exhorted fellow Democrats gathered here Friday to remember what they stand for, and what they've delivered, when they make their case to the American public to keep Democrats in control in Washington, and to elect more Democratic governors.

Biden contended that Democrats can fare best in this fall's elections if the party and its candidates "lay out honestly what we did and honestly what the alternative is."

As it stands, said Biden and other national Democratic leaders, Americans are hearing a earful of inaccuracies and some outright lies.

Biden's audience was several hundred national Democratic leaders gathered at the Union Station Marriott in St. Louis for the Democratic National Committee's annual two-day summer meeting. Among other things, the DNC is putting in place delegate selection policies for the 2012 presidential contest. (Read earlier story here. )

Biden headlined three hours of speeches from a variety of major Democrats, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill from Missouri.

Biden lamented that many of his old Republican friends in the U.S. Senate have bought into their party's insistence that they oppose all Democratic proposals -- even those ideas that originated with Republicans. "They've all made a deal, even the ones who know better," he said,

What Republicans have decided, he said, is that the good of their party is more important than what's best for the country. 

"They're betting their success on our failure," Biden said.

Democrats must fight back, he asserted, by emphasizing the stark contrast between what they stand for and what Republicans are trying to do.

The Republican message, he said, is simple: "Repeal and repeat, repeat the old practices of the past."

The Democratic message, he continued, needs to be that "the only way we're going to be OK is if we don't turn back now." 

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the more people understand what's in the health-care law "the more they like it."

Sebelius joined Biden in declaring that  Democrats must defend what they have been doing and the changes they have made since taking control of Washington in January 2009.

Sebelius pointed in particular to the new federal health-care law, saying, "The more people understand what's in this bill, the more they like it."

For example, she said, "being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition" that curbs access to health insurance. She also cited the end of insurance caps for health-care treatment and barring insurers from canceling coverage when people get sick.

Sebelius and Biden also touted the resurrection of the nation's auto industry, which they said has saved millions of jobs.

But it was Biden who brought the audience of several hundred to their feet, as he repeatedly called for Democrats to proudly emphasize that they'll stand up for average Americans, while portraying Republicans as standing mainly for the wealthy and the well-connected.

In addressing voters, Biden said Democrats should say: "Don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative."

Republicans, he said, are "offering more of the past, and on steroids."

He asserted that the GOP has allowed itself to be taken over by extreme elements fostered by the Tea Party movement,  and should now be called the "Republican Tea Party." 

The DNC unveiled new ads that echoed the same approach. One ad displayed photos of certain GOP leaders, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, with the slogan: "Fighting for Wall Street and Big Oil. That's how Republicans would govern."

But Biden and Friday's other Democratic speakers mentioned no candidates by name, Democratic or Republican.

(In fact, Nixon stuck to his conciliatory approach of focusing on his administration's successes, and taking no direct jabs at Republicans in Jefferson City or Washington.)

In addressing voters, Biden said Democrats should say: "Don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative."

Biden, Sebelius and DNC chairman Tim Kaine repeatedly pressed their point that much of the economic mess was the fault of former President George W. Bush's administration, and that it would take time to get the nation back on track.

Right after taking office, Biden said he and President Barack Obama were immediately faced with more than $1 trillion in new debt and rising monthly job losses caused by the previous administration's lack of attention and mismanagement.

Swift action was necessary, he said.

"We knew there were going to be no easy answers," Biden said. To make the necessary changes needed to set the nation on the right track, he continued, "We knew it couldn't be incremental, and we knew it wouldn't be popular initially."

Biden, Kaine and Sebelius repeatedly blasted Republicans in Congress for their opposition to measures that offered incentives to small businesses, provided aid to states to keep police on the streets, and extended unemployment benefits to people who have been unable to find jobs since the economy hit the skids in late 2008.

Biden said he was shocked that Republicans preferred to embrace the "Ponzi scheme'' of the Bush administration, including the unregulated financial dealings that Democrats and many economists blame for igniting much of the nation's fiscal troubles.

But while predicting Democratic success in November, Biden said that both parties need to remember what's really at stake. "It's not about the next election," he said. "It's really about the next generation."

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.