Sen. Joe Biden claims that some of the personal attacks against Sen. Barack Obama are "really off the wall" and warned his Republican rivals that such vitriol can sometimes be "stuff you can't control."
In an interview with "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran in Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pa., the Democratic vice presidential nominee said it was "fair enough" for Republican presidential candidate John McCain to raise questions about Obama's relationship to 1960s anti-war radical Bill Ayers.
Last week, McCain told ABC News' Charlie Gibson that Ayers, a co-founder of a Vietnam-era group that plotted attacks on the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon, "wasn't a guy in the neighborhood. [Obama] launched his political career in his living room, in Mr. Ayers' living room."
"I'm not saying they shouldn't [raise the issue], but they should put it in a context," Biden said. "Hey, this guy Bill Ayers, Barack was 8 years old when this guy did these bad things. Barack serves on a, you know, board or he lives in his neighborhood. What do you think about that? We think that's awful. That's OK. But to run an ad and saying Barack Obama -- I forget the exact word -- consorts with terrorists, and put this guy's picture up? Come on! That's over the top."
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Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights hero, said Saturday that the McCain campaign was sowing the seeds of hatred and division. Biden called the reaction of some members of the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies "scary stuff," but said that he isn't concerned for Obama's safety on the campaign trail.
"I'm no more concerned about it, as long as … John pushes it back in a box and Gov. Palin pushes it back in a box, because what you don't want to do is encourage -- I don't think they intentionally do it -- encourage people who really are fringe people."
"That stuff you can't control," he said. "I don't think John McCain believes that, but you know, when you fool around, like these ads … now the average person probably looks at that picture they put up there and think it's an al Qaeda guy or something. … So I don't know. John seems to have figured it out. He looks like he's trying to tamp it down."
Virginia GOP Chairman Jeffrey M. Fredericks was quoted by Time magazine as telling campaign volunteers to draw connections between Obama and Osama bin Laden.
"I don't believe it … I can't believe it," Biden said. "I'm surprised John McCain hasn't gone down and whacked the guy with his fist. I mean, I don't think there's a prejudiced bone in John McCain's body. But that kind of stuff is really off the wall. I refuse to let myself believe John McCain has anything to do with any of that."
In the Gibson interview, Obama attributed the personal attacks as an attempt to "change the subject" from the struggling economy, and Biden concurred that "it's all about just not wanting to talk about the issues."
"They don't know what to say about the economy, for God's sake," he told Moran. "I mean, look, the economy's going to hell in a hand basket, $2 trillion of people's retirement just blown away in a week of bad judgment. You know, eight years of economic mismanagement are coming to a head, and what do they say?"
Biden called the McCain campaign's proposal to make cuts in the capital gains tax rate "the sixth, or fifth, you know, new iteration of John."