LAS VEGAS — Vice President Joe Biden, joking about his Republican rival Paul Ryan's book Young Guns, told an appreciative rally audience on Thursday that "unfortunately, those bullets are aimed at you," drawing a complaint from Mitt Romney's campaign for what it called the latest example of Biden's over-the-top rhetoric.
Appearing at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, Biden cited Ryan's book — written in 2010 with now-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. — which outlines the three young leaders' conservative agenda.
"Ryan has written a book called Young Guns with two other fellas, members of the House," Biden said as the crowd laughed. "No, these are Republican leaders in the House."
A man in the crowd then yelled out, "They have guns with no bullets!"
Biden responded, "Unfortunately, the bullets are aimed at you," as the crowd laughed again. The vice president added, "Here's what happened: These guys talk, they use phrases like — I never heard them before from Republicans — about, 'We are a culture of dependency.' "
The incident led Mitt Romney campaign spokesman Brendan Buck to fire off an e-mail: “Today’s over-the-top rhetoric by Vice President Biden is disappointing, but not all that surprising. In the absence of a vision or plan to move the country forward, the vice president is left only with ugly political attacks beneath the dignity of the office he occupies."
Biden campaign press secretary Amy Dudley sought to clarify Biden's quip, responding that the exchange "was clearly a reference to how the policies discussed in Paul Ryan’s book, Young Guns, would devastate the middle class. Given that people don't assume that Paul Ryan is literally a gun, it probably makes sense not to assume that Joe Biden was speaking literally about bullets."
Biden also drew laughs from the crowd when he cited Romney's much-buzzed-about reference during Tuesday's presidential debate to "binders full of women" as evidence of his commitment to finding and hiring more qualified female applicants for positions in his administration when he served as Massachusetts governor.
"When Governor Romney was asked a direct question in the debate about equal pay for women, he started out by talking about binders … binders … binders full of qualified women's names," he said. "The idea he'd have to go ask somebody to put together a binder is unusual. And, by the way, he never did answer the question on equal pay."
Biden has regularly provoked Republicans with his red-meat campaign-trail rhetoric, most notably in August when he told a largely African-American audience in Virginia that Romney's Wall Street deregulation would "put y'all back in chains."
At the Las Vegas event, he began his remarks by taking note of his blunt speaking style. "I do have a bad habit of saying what I think," he said to cheers. "I never say anything I don't think. The problem is, I sometimes say all that I think and … " The crowd then laughed again.