I confess my unpopular opinion up front: I’m not sure why it’s a scandal for Castro to raise a concern about Biden that the media’s been writing about incessantly for months. Thanks to Biden’s regular gaffes, his age and mental wherewithal are more than an elephant in the room. They’re an elephant in the room that keeps taking a dump on the floor. Finally someone noticed the smell! And then, under fire from the hypocritical press, denied having smelled it:
Julián Castro says he doesn't regret his clash with Joe Biden, in which he asked whether Biden was "forgetting what you said two minutes ago?"
— ABC News (@ABC) September 13, 2019
Imagine Castro’s confusion this morning at being savaged for his jab at Biden’s alleged forgetfulness early in the debate despite the fact that Biden then went on to sound incoherent in that “record player” answer that Ed flagged earlier.
But whatever, I shed no tears for the Castro boys. This is the second time in a month in which they’ve taken a shot below the belt at someone and then professed angelic innocence afterward about what their intentions are. If the media wants to flog Julian for disrespecting Grandpa Joe, have at it. He deserves it if only for botching his attack on Biden so badly that fact-checkers afterward were forced to acknowledge that Biden, not Castro, was right on the substance of their exchange.
Former senator Claire McCaskill said, “I think Castro’s hurt. I think he was trying to swing for the fences… I’m not sure anything tonight moved the needle except I think Castro offended people the way he did that. And it won’t surprise me if it helps Biden.”
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson added, “I totally agree with what Claire said.” For long stretches the debate seemed like Biden versus the fringes, and they were trying to get some sort of purchase. I think you understate the damage that Castro did to himself tonight. He would have lost a lot of support if he had a lot of support to lose. He didn’t. He had a little support. I think it’s basically over. He took a shot. It was not a good shot. And it just really went over like a lead balloon. That was a bad, bad moment for him.”
Meh. I think the jury’s out on whether he helped or hurt himself on balance. Castro’s not merely running to be VP, remember, he’s running to be the VP of a particular candidate — Elizabeth Warren, the only member of the top tier whom he’d “balance” demographically on a ticket. He showed her last night that he’s willing to go hard at her enemies. Whether he went a little too hard and made bitter enemies of Biden voters, who might not be thrilled with having to support Warren as nominee in the first place, remains to be seen. If so, he might have made himself too much of a liability to “party unity” for her to put on a ticket. If not, he’d make a fine attack dog against Trump in the general election, particularly given his Texas roots and his new status as one of the most well-known Latino pols in the country.
In the meantime, the competition is going to have fun knifing him over last night’s exchange with Biden. Here’s Beto, who ended up on the short end of an immigration exchange with Castro at the first debate, trying to elbow aside his fellow Texan and maybe pick up some of his voters. Castro doesn’t seem too remorseful, though — he’s actually fundraising off of the exchange with Biden this morning, portraying himself as a political hero-victim because of it. Exit quotation: “I could either play it safe and give Vice President Biden a free pass like everyone else. Or I could speak up, challenge the conversation, and demand answers for you and your family… I spent every second on that stage fighting for you – and now I’m being attacked for it.”
Beto O’Rourke on Julián Castro’s jab at Joe Biden’s memory: "That will not defeat Donald Trump. That won’t bring this deeply divided country back together again … That kind of personal attack I don’t think is what we need right now and is insufficient to the challenges we face” pic.twitter.com/EoCA5SIyBG
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 13, 2019