DETROIT – Revving up a crowd at a Detroit high school, Vice President Joe Biden offered up one of his father’s old adages to illustrate the tenacity the people of Detroit possess as their city works to recover from the crisis in the auto industry.
“My dad used to say you measure a man or woman – it wasn’t whether they got knocked down, but how quickly they got up. And guess what? Detroit’s getting back up,” Biden told an estimated crowd of 1,100 packed into a narrow hallway at Renaissance High School Wednesday.
Detroit’s unemployment rate remains more than a point above the national average, sitting at 9.7 percent in June, but over the past three years, the unemployment rate in the city has decreased dramatically from its 27.8 percent rate in July 2009. Michigan’s unemployment rate rose last month, jumping from 8.6 percent in June to 9 percent in July.
Biden, who called Mitt Romney a “decent” man despite boos emanating from the crowd, knocked the presumptive GOP nominee for the 2008 New York Times op-ed he penned with the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” saying that the president’s approach to dealing with the auto industry proved successful.
“In spite of Gov. Romney’s insistence that we let Detroit go bankrupt, we rescued the automobile industry,” Biden said.
The Romney campaign claimed Biden’s comments about Detroit’s turnaround are “out of touch.”
“For millions of middle-class families, Vice President Biden couldn’t be more out of touch with the state of the economy,” Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Romney, said in a statement. “After claiming yesterday, ‘the middle class is coming back,’ the vice president is now claiming that ‘Detroit is getting back up.’ But after nearly four years, middle-class families are struggling with lower income, fewer jobs, and increasing unemployment. The Romney-Ryan plan will provide 12 million new jobs, higher take-home pay and a brighter future for the middle class.”
While in Detroit Wednesday morning, the vice president had coffee with Michigan United Auto Workers leaders and, in the afternoon, he will hold two fundraisers in the Detroit area.
The vice president’s trip to Detroit came two days before Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, were set to campaign together in the state. A June NBC News/Marist Poll found President Obama ahead of Romney by 4 points.
The vice president shared the stage with a local phenom when he was introduced by Claressa Shields, a 17-year-old boxer from Flint, Mich., who won an Olympic gold medal in London earlier this month.
“We’ve had tough times in Michigan, but we never give up,” Shields said. “We just get up and keep going. We keep fighting with the president and vice president who’ve got our backs.”
While he attested to President Obama’s character with stories about their close relationship, the vice president also mentioned just how well he knew some of the other presidents.
“Folks, I can tell you I’ve known eight presidents, three of them intimately,” Biden said. “I have never, never once, in all the time I’ve been with this president … I’ve never once in the difficult decisions he’s had to make heard him ask me or anyone else, ‘What are the politics in this for me?’ Not one single time.”
Before departing the school, Biden posed for photos with the high school’s football team and offered them words of encouragement for their upcoming season.
“Hey guys, have a great season! Get up!” Biden said.
“Four more years!” one of the players shouted back.
“When you go to states, invite me. I’ll come!” Biden said.