You got to hand it to Joe Biden. The guy really knows how to fling out a buzz phrase. The latest is a doozy: "Mitt Romney wants you to show your papers, but he won't show us his."
He was talking to a group of Latinos, bashing Romney for refusing to release his tax returns. Let's face it, Romney's rich. He made a lot of money. His returns would show how, and how much. Romney says there's "nothing hidden" in his returns. But he won't give them up.
(Note to Romney: When you say you have nothing to hide, but you refuse to show, it looks suspicious. It's like a kid with chocolate on his face and his hands behind his back. If you ask, "What's in your hand?" and the kid says, "Nothing," you won't really believe it until you see his hands.)
Romney did cough up one year's worth of returns, back during the primary. But even that was like pulling teeth. He didn't want to. Nothing there, he insisted. But he wouldn't show. Finally, he did.
He was right. There was nothing there ¿ nothing illegal. But it did raise a lot of questions about how a guy who made more than $21 million in 2010 (Yep, that's a 21 followed by six zeros. Like this: $21,000,000. Not too shabby.) paid only 13.9 percent in taxes.
Nothing wrong there. He paid the right amount. More than half of his income came from capital gains and dividends. So 13.9 percent was right.
But the Democrats made a piñata out of him over it.
"How can a guy who made more than what most of us could make in a few centuries pay half as much in taxes as your average middle-class family?" they screamed.
Well, you could understand why Mitt's a bit skittish about showing us there's "nothing hidden" in any other years either.
The thing is, though, Biden's new buzz phrase came out at the closing luncheon at the National Council of La Raza annual convention. And his point wasn't just, "Psst, what's the guy hiding? How come he won't show us?" His point was part of a bigger theme that was buzzing around the convention from Day One.
He was talking about equality.
In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder brought it up during his speech to the NCLR crowd on the convention's opening day. He praised the nation's largest Latino civil rights organization for "speaking out about the fact that we have further to travel on the road to equality; and by working to make certain that the hard-won progress of the Civil Rights era is protected."
When Biden delivered his line, he was referring to Arizona's "show us your papers" immigration law. It requires police there to demand immigration papers from anyone who doesn't "look" like they belong here.
The Justice Department, under Holder, fought it all the way to the Supreme Court.
The problem with the law, Clarissa Martinez, NCLR's Director of Civic Engagement and Immigration, told Terra, is "you cannot tell by looking at someone whether they are an American, because Americans come in all colors and shapes. So, basically, laws like that just put a bull's- eye on the Latino community."
In his speech, Holder held the law up as an example of the ongoing assault on Civil Rights.
"Today, unfortunately," Holder said, "some of these gains have come under renewed threat. And there can be no doubt that our nation now faces a moment of great consequence."
It's not just immigration laws like Arizona's, which were engineered and promoted by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who Romney identified as his adviser on immigration matters, then tried to distance himself from when Hispanic groups complained.
Holder also raised the issue of a wave of restrictive voter registration and ID laws sweeping through (mostly Republican run) states.
Democrats and multiple voter registration, voter rights and minority advocacy groups contend the new requirements are modern-day variations of Jim Crow laws aimed at suppressing minority participation. (So did this independent study by the New York University School of Law¿s Brennan Center or Justice.)
Not so, say the Republicans.
But Pennsylvania Republican and State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai sort of admitted the opposite is true just a couple of weeks ago when he gloated in front of a GOP meeting that his state's strict new voter ID law would "allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."
And the crowd of Republican party members he was talking to didn't seem to have a problem with what he said. They applauded.
Guess who else is pushing the voter laws ¿ yep, Kris Kobach. Hmmm.)
So even if Biden was playing politics in his NCLR speech, he may have a point worth considering.
"Imagine what the Supreme Court will look like after four years of Gov. Romney," he said. "Imagine what it will act like. Imagine what it will mean for civil rights, voting rights, and so much we have fought so hard for. Imagine a Justice Department that supports, rather than challenges, continued efforts to suppress the right to vote."
So, Biden's buzz phrase about Mitt showing his papers is not really about some rich guy refusing to release his returns, not even about some rich guy running for president who refuses to release his returns.
It's about equality.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison