Julián Castro struck a nerve with his direct and repeated questioning of Joe Biden during the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, and now lots of people are all freaked out about it.
Castro shocked just about everyone when he made a clear attack on Biden’s memory during an exchange on healthcare, asking him, “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” The exchange was brutal—for Biden. Castro also went after the former vice president on immigration.
Many in the media immediately began saying that Castro had gone too far. In post-debate analysis, CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe warned that Castro should watch out.
“I’ve heard from campaign aides to others tonight who call what Castro did a low blow and disqualifying. I think there’s going to be a conversation among supporters of Castro about whether there has to be some kind of recalibration or if he’ll really be able to survive this. It’s one thing to say ‘Did you forget what you just said?’ once, but to go a second and third time starts to sound petulant and desperate,” O’Keefe said.
Oh. Word. Castro called out Biden’s contradictory statements, and that’s bad now. Gotcha.
This campaign flack or adviser is not sharing state secrets. They’re not feeding O’Keefe the next Watergate or even the next Benghazi. They’re mad their candidate performed poorly and was called out for his poor memory in the moment. If you’re going to obliquely threaten another candidate by saying insulting Barack Obama’s former vice president is off-limits, you should be able to stand by it. It’s weird that campaign aides are floating anonymous pseudo-threats to reporters. It’s even weirder that reporters are repeating this drivel on air.
But it became clear that Castro’s attack had landed hard. Everyone was talking about it. Many, many, many people, including other presidential candidates, similarly implied that Castro was beyond the pale for having the nerve to highlight what everyone else has been seeing about Biden, a very powerful man trying to be the president. He was asked about it over and over again.
For his part, Castro said—on several different outlets—that he had no regrets. (He also said he wasn’t making a personal attack on Biden, which he clearly was.)
Speaking to CNN, Castro made the crucial point.
“I’m not bashful about debating people,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re not running for student council president. We’re running for president.”