Analysis: Thursday's debate shows San Antonio’s Julián Castro was right to question Biden's age

Joe Biden's disastrous debate performance Thursday has reportedly sparked panic among Democratic operatives.

click to enlarge Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was ridiculed five years ago for questioning then-candidate Joe Biden's cognitive abilities during a Democratic primary debate. - Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons
Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons
Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was ridiculed five years ago for questioning then-candidate Joe Biden's cognitive abilities during a Democratic primary debate.
During a September 2019 Democratic presidential primary debate, former San Antonio Mayor and Obama Housing Secretary Julián Castro drew flak for attacking then-candidate Joe Biden's memory.

"Are you forgetting what you just said two minutes ago," Castro said, garnering gasps of disbelief from the audience. "I mean, I can't believe that you said just two minutes ago that they had to buy in, and now you don't — you're forgetting that."

Castro was referring to Biden's apparent flip-flop during the debate about the future president's proposed healthcare plan. At first, Biden said anyone who can't afford healthcare would automatically be enrolled. Moments later, though, he said Americans would have to buy into the plan.

At the time, Castro was lambasted by former El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke, another contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, who described the verbal attack on then 76-year-old Biden as "name-calling" and "smallball politics."

The media also lashed out. CNBC ran a headline questioning whether Castro went "too far" in questioning his opponent's age.

However, following now-President Biden's disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump on Thursday night, Castro appeared to defend his earlier concerns in a social media post.

"Tonight was completely predictable," Castro tweeted.

Castro continued in a followup tweet: "Biden had a very low bar going into the debate and failed to even clear that bar. He seemed unprepared, lost, and not strong enough to parry effectively with Trump, who lies constantly."
So, how bad was Biden? The consensus among commentators — even many of the president's allies — was that it was a disaster. Perhaps his worst moment came when CNN anchor Dana Bash asked Biden what he would do about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

"Look, there are so many young women who have been, including the young woman who just was murdered," Biden mumbled. "And, he went to the funeral. And the idea that she was murdered by, uh, an immigrant come into [unintelligable]. He talks about that, but here's the deal: there's a lot of [unintelligeable] young women to be raped by their in-laws, by their spouses, brothers and sisters. By, [unintelligeable] it's just ridiculous, and they can do nothing about it. And they try to arrest them when they cross state lines."
Even the reliably left-leaning MSNBC was in full breakdown mode. Network commentator Symone Sanders-Townsend told host Rachel Maddow that her phone had been ringing off the hook with Democratic operatives "approaching panic."

Sanders-Townsend added that the Washington establishment described Biden's debate performance as "feeble" and "weak."

On Friday's CNN This Morning podcast, anchor Kasie Hunt said Democratic operatives were already having conversations about who could replace Biden on the ticket.

"The debate went so poorly for the president that there are already mostly private conversations among insiders about whether he should step down as the party's presumptive nominee, a notion that we just weren't talking about 24 hours ago," Hunt said.

Even so, due to the rules of the Democratic National Convention, only Biden himself could opt to drop out of the race. Such a move could create chaos at the DNC's Chicago convention in August.

However, considering Trump's plans if reelected — mass deportations, defunding the FBI and pulling out of the war in Ukraine to name a few — stepping back to allow an open convention would be among the best things Biden can do to show his commitment to public service.

If only others had taken Castro's warning seriously.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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