(DUBUQUE, Iowa) — President Obama has been known to quibble with his vice president for upstaging him on matters of policy or committing unintended rhetorical gaffes.
But after Vice President Joe Biden suggested Tuesday that Republicans want to put voters in “chains,” triggering a fierce war of words between the rival campaigns, Obama is standing by Biden’s side.
In an interview with People magazine from Dubuque, Iowa, Obama called the vice president an “outstanding” figure who is, “passionate about what’s happening in middle-class families.”
He shrugged off the controversy over Biden’s remark, defending and clarifying the overarching argument Biden was trying to make.
Biden was saying, “You, consumers, the American people, will be a lot worse off if we repeal these [Wall Street reform] laws as the other side is suggesting,” the president said, backing up his No. 2.
“In no sense was he trying to connote something other than that,” Obama told the magazine.
The VP sparked the controversy during a campaign rally in Danville, Va., where he was attempting to argue that the House GOP budget, partly written by newly-minted GOP vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, gives an indication of the Republican presidential ticket’s values.
“Look at what they value and look at their budget and what they’re proposing. Romney wants to let the — he said in the first 100 days he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, ‘unchain Wall Street.’ They’re going to put y’all back in chains,” he said, stressing that sentence with what some saw as an urban affectation.
Biden and the Obama campaign both later issued clarification of the comment, explaining that he misspoke and intended to use the word “unshackle,” which has been used by the GOP in the past — but regarding the economy, not human beings.
“The last time these guys unshackled the economy, to use their term, they put the middle class in shackles. That’s how we got where we are,” Biden said at a subsequent rally in Wyethville, Va.
Asked by People about the appropriateness of Biden’s choice of words, Obama reportedly “sighed.”
“The truth is that during the course of these campaigns, folks like to get obsessed with how something was phrased even if everybody personally understands that’s not how it was meant,” Obama said.
The comment wasn’t even Biden’s most recent apparent gaffe on the campaign trail. On Wednesday, during a comment about the auto bailout, Biden got the current century wrong. “Folks, where’s it written we cannot lead the world in the 20th century in making automobiles?,” Biden asked.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Laura Koran, Dan Merica and Tom LoBianco, CNN
Eric Bradner, Dana Bash and MJ Lee, CNN
Brian Stelter, CNN