LAKE BUENA VISTA (CBSMiami/AP) – On A Central Florida stop Friday, Vice President Joe Biden blamed the nation’s problems on President George W. Bush’s eight years in office and accused congressional Republicans of obstructing President Barack Obama’s efforts to improve the economy and help the middle class.
In addition to blaming Bush and Republican policies for the deficit, the poor economy, the collapse of the housing market and more, he touted successes ranging from stabilizing job losses, passing a health care overhaul, killing Osama bin Laden and helping Libyan rebels remove Moammar Gadhafi without losing any American troops.
“Folks, we’ve set America on a different path, a new journey. One that our friends on the other team are trying to obstruct,” he said in a speech to Florida Democrats.
The speech laid out the arguments the Obama campaign will make over the next year in a state Biden said he’ll visit often because it’s crucial to winning a second term. Obama carried Florida in 2008, but his poll numbers have dropped and Republicans dominated the 2010 elections here. Florida is also the largest battleground state with 29 electoral votes.
Biden said the United States was isolated in the world when they took office. He said allies didn’t respect the nation and enemies no longer feared it. He listed the problems Obama inherited, including two wars and a projected deficit of $8 trillion over the next 10 years and a banking industry that nearly collapsed.
“I find it absolutely bizarre — Republicans moralizing about deficits. That’s a little like an arsonists moralizing about fire safety,” Biden said.
He gave the Obama administration credit for stabilizing Wall Street and the banking industry and defended the bailout of the auto industry, singling out Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“We knew, in spite of what Romney and others said at the time, that we would permanently lose a million jobs related to the industry. So we told the industry, `Shape up, reorganize and if you do, we will help you,”‘ Biden said. “Instead of losing 1 million jobs permanently, we’ve added in the last year 111,000 auto jobs. General Motors and Chrysler are healthy. They’re paying off their government loans.”
Biden received his loudest applause when he said that 150,000 American troops in Iraq will be home by Christmas. In giving the Obama administration credit for killing bin Laden and removing other al-Qaida leaders, Biden said the Bush administration “ignored and let adrift” the war on the terrorist network.
He said Republicans are now doing whatever they can to stop Obama from advancing polices, like his recently proposed jobs bill which would increase taxes on millionaires, lower payroll taxes on workers and businesses for a year, pay for bridge, road and school construction projects.
“They didn’t want to just stop what we were doing, they wanted to undo everything that we had done. Some people think this Republican obstructionism is about ideology, other people think it’s just about politics. I’ll leave that for the American people to decide,” Biden said.
Republicans aren’t offering any new ideas, he said, adding they want to deregulate Wall Street and give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and go back to Bush’s policies.
“I respect President Bush as a man, I thought his polices were terrible,” Biden said. “Name me one major initiative — on taxes, on jobs, on Wall Street, on foreclosures, on promoting innovation, on infrastructure — the Republicans offer that is any different at all from what was done the eight years when they controlled the presidency. I cannot find one.”
Earlier Friday, Biden spoke to more than 900 teachers at the Florida Education Association’s delegate assembly meeting in Orlando. He criticized what he called Gov. Rick Scott’s “attacks on teachers” and reductions in education spending.
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