Biden: 'I may be a white boy, but I can jump'

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 25, 2014 

TV-Late Night-Seth Meyers

In this photo provided by NBC, from left, actress Amy Poehler and Vice President Joe Biden appear with host Seth Meyers on the premiere of "Late Night with Seth Meyers" on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, in New York.


Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, hosted a reception Tuesday night in honor of African-American History Month -- and the veep's reputation for the unscripted remark remains intact.

Among the guests: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former National Basketball Association star, of whom Biden said: "I told the president, next game, I've got him. I may be a white boy, but I can jump."

The rest of the evening at the vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory was a little less unscripted, according to a White House pool report.

The vice president's office expected about 150 people. Spotted in the crowd were Johnson, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, AFSCME president Lee Saunders, Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin and National Black Caucus of State Legislators president Joe Armstrong.

Biden was introduced by his wife, who said "February is a time for all of us to pause to remember the sacrifices and to recognize the contributions of African-Americans who have helped make our country the beacon of freedom, equality and opportunity that it is today."

Biden spoke about watching the civil rights movement unfold from a distance as he was growing up, but how it nonetheless shaped his thinking in a searing way.

Biden centered most of his remarks on voting rights, tying the March on Selma -- which he called a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement because he said it prompted Lyndon Johnson to support the Voting Rights Act -- to recent events.

"Without the right to vote, nothing else much mattered," he said, reflecting on why Selma stood out for him.

Biden described his votes to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act as some of his proudest as a senator. And he reflected on the 1982 reauthorization of the act, which had Ronald Reagan's support and Strom Thurmond's vote -- saying it seemed at the time like a turning point.

"I thought it was done--finally, finally done," he said, pounding the podium with his fist.

He expressed anger and disappointment with last year's Supreme Court decision overturning parts of the VRA, quoting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent comparing the ruling to throwing out an umbrella. "There's a rainstorm," Biden said.

He singled out voting legislation in North Carolina, Alabama and Texas as examples of what's wrong on the state level.

"These guys never go away. Hatred never, never goes away," Biden said. "The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason."

Biden cited the commitment of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to voting rights, and expressed optimism that Congress would pass legislation to address the overturned parts of the Voting Rights Act to stop what he called "this kind of malarkey."


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