Mike Kueber's Blog

November 12, 2012

Joaquin Castro on Meet the Press

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:51 am

San Antonio’s newly elected congressman from the 20th District, Joaquin Castro, made a surprise appearance on MSNBC’s Meet the Press yesterday.  He was one of five guests in the show’s panel discussion, along with heavyweights Doris Kearns Goodwin, Steve Schmidt, Bob Woodward, and Chuck Todd.  How did he do?

My initial reaction was that Castro sounded polished and seemed comfortable, even though moderator David Gregory treated him as a junior member of the panel.  But that reaction is always subject to revision, just like the reaction of football coaches at post-game press conferences, after viewing the game tapes.  When I went back to a tape of the show, I saw that Castro had actually performed poorly.

My conclusion that Gregory treated Castro as a junior member of the panel was based on the first question, which dealt with the issue of the day – the Petraeus affair.  Gregory gave every panelist except Castro the opportunity to comment.  As Gregory went around the panel, I wondered what Castro could possible add to the discussion, and I was relieved when Gregory skipped him.

This omission was obviously planned because Gregory immediately tried to obscure it by lobbing the second question directly to Castro: was the election in favor of the status quo or a mandate for change?  Not surprisingly, Castro characterized the election as an Obama mandate telling the Republicans to follow him.  (If that were so, why didn’t they simply elect a Democratic congress?)  Castro got in trouble, however, when he tried to explain his assertion.  He said that intransigent Republicans who most opposed Obama, “including Alan West and almost Michele Bachmann,” went down in defeat.  Huh?  One defeat and one “almost” is flimsy support for such a broad assertion. 

A little later, Gregory threw another softball question toward Castro – were the Democrats in Congress willing to deal realistically with the need to cut spending?  Not surprisingly, Castro said the Democrats were, as long as they were accompanied by tax increases.  Drawing on his previous comment, Castro noted that Republicans had resisted tax increases for four years, but based on this election, the Republicans will be forced to get in gear.  Huh?  The Republicans have controlled the House only since their landslide 2010 election.  And the vast majority of those Republicans were re-elected in 2012.  That is no mandate for the Republicans to start raising taxes. 

The third, and final, cream-puff question from Gregory asked Castro to comment on the tone of Rush Limbaugh’s post-election comments that pundits were demanding that Republicans give up their principles against illegal immigration and abortion in order to placate the moderate middle of America.  Not surprisingly, Castro denigrated the radical right of the Republican Party, which he said considered Hispanics and illegal immigrants to be synonymous.  Huh?  Republicans are forever trying to distinguish between illegal and legal immigrants, while the Democrats continually imply that the treatment of one is indistinguishable from the treatment of the other.

The liberal bent of Meet the Press was vividly displayed when each panelist used Castro’s response as a jumping off point to close the show:

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin pointed out that the Republican Party is totally missing the new governing coalition in America – Latinos, women, and the young.  I agree that the party needs to increase its Latino support, but married women already prefer the Republican Party.  These are natural conservatives.  And the party can thrive without the support of single women and the young, who are natural liberals. 
  • Chuck Todd accused the Republican Party of being a party of special interests, without bothering to list those special interests.  That comment shocked me because I have always considered the Democratic Party to be the party of special interests – unions (especially public-employee unions), feminists, African-Americans, Hispanics, and the poor.  The Republican Party, by contrast, is principled support of a robust private economy and a small, yet effective government. 
  • Steve Schmidt worried that the Republican Party had too many shrill voices and social extremists.  I agree that the Evangelicals are a special interest that seems to have acquired too much power within the party.
  • Bob Woodward pointed out that the Obama’s legacy as president will depend on whether he makes any progress in resolving our nation’s debt/deficit crisis and that Speaker Boehner appeared willing to help.  Hear, hear. 

I thought we were going to end the panel discussion on Woodward’s most excellent, uplifting point, but suddenly Joaquin Castro jumped into the discussion by warning that Boehner has a record of saying one thing and then reversing course the next day. 

At that moment, Castro sounded like a small-minded partisan.  And his campaign promise to represent all of San Antonio, not just its Democrats, was gone with the wind.


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