MSNBC Goes POSTAL on Castro for Biden Memory Attack, But Love Doing It to Trump

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During MSNBC’s post-Democratic debate analysis on Thursday night and early Friday, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro was widely condemned for his attack on former Vice President Joe Biden for his false claim about his health care policy and suggesting the elderly Biden was mentally showing his age.

But for anyone with a pulse, it’s amazing that the cast of characters were so enraged by Castro but have spent years either directly asserting or allowing guests to speculate that President Donald Trump’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or a mental health ailment. While CNN is by far the worst on this topic, MSNBC isn’t innocent either.

 

 

Deadline: White House host Nicolle Wallace was incensed in her first comments about the debate, chastising him as “the skunk at the garden party.” 

Later and after airing Castro’s spin room interview with Hardball host Chris Matthews (more on that later), Wallace expressed discomfort with Castro’s “unsettled illusion to Alzheimer's or ageism” against Biden and that she doesn’t see there being “a constituency in the Democratic base” for that view.

Wallace then unloaded (click “expand”):

WALLACE: I mean, having done press, this interview made me sweat. I sat here sweating. The appropriate thing to do in an interview when Chris Matthews is reading you the heinous transcript where you suggested Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, who may or may not be the nominee, might have a memory problem

WILLIAMS: Don’t fight the transcript.

WALLACE: — is to say I'm so sorry that's the impression. Biden — you know what you say? You say let me have those cards. I know what I said. I'm going to own it and I’m going to clean it up where it needs to be clean it up. But in no uncertain terms, I was not suggesting he has age-related memory loss. If I missed that, then I’ll go read some cue cards. But that was a disaster, and a disgrace. 

A small sample of the NewsBusters archives would find that Wallace had zero problems questioning the President’s mental state (or anyone else’s). On January 8, 2018, Wallace and former Republican David Jolly not only suggested the President had a something wrong in his head but also that Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s while still in office.

Almost eight months later, Wallace used her show to lead the charge for removing Trump via the 25th Amendment on the grounds of mental instability. Going to August 16, Wallace led a panel that also played doctor in diagnosing Trump with Alzheimer’s Disease.

While not an offender of this double standard, former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) agreed about Castro’s jab. She lamented that Castro “blew clean-up on aisle five” and instead “was over in the next aisle creating another damn mess” to which Wallace quipped, “he didn't even bring a broom.”

Earlier in the evening, McCaskill surmised that “Castro is hurt” after “trying to swing for the fences” but instead “offended people.”

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson joined in too (even though he had no problem doing it to Trump here):

Exactly...and, you know, I totally agree with what Claire said. For long stretches the debate seemed like Biden versus the fringes. Biden versus the others and they were trying to get some sort of purchase. I think you understate the damage that Castro did to himself tonight. I think 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 — 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 — that was a bad, bad moment for him.

Then there was Matthews. Off the top of their coverage, he slammed Castro’s “a cheap shot.” In his interview, Matthews blasted Castro (click “expand”)

MATTHEWS: Most people thought there was another aspect to this that you were suggesting a man of 76 years had lost the ability to remember what he just said. Short-term memory loss. 

CASTRO: That was not — no — not at all. 

MATTHEWS: It wasn’t what you were doing?

CASTRO: Not at all.

MATTHEWS: Because you rubbed in three or four times. You kept saying, you don't remember, you don't remember. 

CASTRO: We had a disagreement about whether he said the words buy in. He did say the words buy in when you look at the full transcript.

(....)

MATTHEWS: You believe he’s deficient? 

CASTRO: Well, I believe his health care plan is deficient. I respect Vice President Biden. I have tremendous respect for him. I think a great candidate. But let me tell you, when I get on that debate stage, whether it's in a primary or I get on the debate stage in October 2020 against Donald Trump, you better believe that I'm going to be there to prove my point. 

However, Matthews happily played amateur psychologist for the President. Within the last year, Matthews strategized about the 25th Amendment with Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), deemed the President’s written responses to the Mueller report akin to being a “failed Alzheimer’s test,” and boasted that Trump’s behavior was like someone “being studied for dementia.” 

In the 1:00 a.m. Eastern hour, lefties Karine Jean-Pierre, Joel Payne, and Jonathan Alter spouted off (click “expand”):

JEAN-PIERRE: But the — the attack on — on Joe Biden in that, kind of, that ageism thing. We saw Eric Swalwell do that in the first debate and look where he ended up and I think that was not a smart move and the thing about Castro. I actually do think he brings in — he’s brought in some really substantive, kind of conversations, especially immigration, racial, talking about racial issues. But that moment? I think it’s going to hurt him. 

(....)

PAYNE: Here's the problem. He essentially kind of almost created a shield around Joe Biden, I think, for the rest debate because he set the parameters so aggressively on what he said about, you know, Biden and his forgetfulness and some of the gaffe-prone things that he’s done on the trail that he almost gave Biden a pass for the rest of the debate. So I think it kind of protected Biden from any other attacks in the debate. So in a way it kind back fired on Castro and worked in Joe Biden's favor. 

(....)

ALTER: It was just a stupid thing for him to do and — and I agree with Mike. I think he blew his chance to be vice president. You know, Democrats don't want that kind of thing this year. They just don't and it’s almost like there were Republicans were when Ronald Reagan said, you know, the 11th commandment. Don't attack other Republicans. You can go after each other on policy. They want a vigorous debate on the future of the country. But once you make it personal, you electrocute yourself. 

REID: Yeah and the difficulty, an attack that seems ageist is several — more than one person is in Joe Biden's age group. Like he’s not alone in that age group.

ALTER: But it's not just age. It’s, you know, anything that feels personal. Democrats want to be united this time. They don't want their differences exploited by the Republicans and if you get out there doing something that — that everybody is a pundit now. So, everybody watching is wondering, are the Republicans going to be able to turn this into a talking point? And they don't want candidates who do that. 

And for good measure, faux Republican and Jeb Bush campaign mastermind Mike Murphy compared Castro to Evel Knievel (click “expand”):

Look, Castro made history tonight. He came in with a dying presidential campaign at one percent. Not really much of a factor. He managed to do this Evel Knievel strategy and not only blow that up, I think he blew up his vice presidential chances because Joe Biden is the front-runner. He's a weak front-runner, but he is the most popular candidate in the Democratic Party and calling him senile on national TV was a cheap shot and it is this time second time he's done something that actually you can argue helps Donald Trump. In the first debate, he pinned everybody down on decriminalizing border crossings. All those hands went up and the Republicans in the campaign were all writing that down, grabbing that video for ads later. So Castro, I think, wins the not helping award tonight and I don't think, he got notoriety but the wrong kind. My guess is he won't make it to Christmas in the Democratic primary.

Perhaps it would be best if liberal journalists collectively stop playing doctor, but apparently they’re more than credentialed to diagnose people they don’t like but not those they like.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s post-debate analysis on September 12 and 13, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Decision 2020: Debate Analysis
September 12, 2019
10:51 p.m. Eastern

NICOLLE WALLACE: But look, if you had to stick one headline on this night, I think you showed the moment that Julian Castro was the skunk at the garden party. I don’t think there’s an appetite. I think if Joe Biden isn’t the nominee, if he falls from what would have been months and months of an enduring lead, this race is not that fluid at the top and I don't think anything that happened will move Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren out of those top three spots.

(....)

10:54 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: [A]nd by the way, I’m glad you scored it against Castro on the issue of attempted to blame the guy for having Alzheimer’s. I think that was a cheap shot. The fact is he got his facts wrong and in terms of competency, he was the one that risked his position tonight, not Biden.

(....)

10:55 p.m. Eastern

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: I think Castro is hurt. 

WILLIAMS: Mmmhmm.

MCCASKILL: I think he was trying to swing for the fences. 

WILLIAMS: Yep.

MCCASKILL: People kept talking about the tension between Warren and Biden. The tension I felt on that stage, were for the bottom five. 

EUGENE ROBINSON: Exactly.

MCCASKILL: — this was their last — in some ways their last moment to make a lasting impression to try to get in to the kind of debate that will probably move the needle some down the line, but 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. 

ROBINSON: And, you know, I totally agree with what Claire said. For long stretches the debate seemed like Biden versus the fringes. Biden versus the others and they were trying to get some sort of purchase. I think you understate the damage that Castro did to himself tonight. I think 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 — 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 — that was a bad, bad moment for him.

(....)

11:56 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: When we come back, we're going to hear from former Housing Secretary Julian Castro. He, of tonight's deeply uncomfortable moment, according to some on stage, when we took a kind of a round house at —

NICOLLE WALLACE: Think he called him a skunk. 

WILLIAMS: — at Joe Biden.

(....)

September 13, 2019
12:31 a.m. Eastern

WILLIAMS: And so earlier, our colleague Chris Matthews had a chance to talk with Julian Castro just a few minutes ago. Chris asked him about those contentious exchanges with Joe Biden. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us. 

JULIAN CASTRO: Yeah. 

MATTHEWS: You know, we got the word before tonight's debate from a reporter that you were going to go on the attack against Biden. It was all telegraphed by somebody. How did that happen? How did we know about that, that you're going after Biden? 

CASTRO: There wasn't going to be an attack necessarily on Biden. 

MATTHEWS: No. It was particular that you were going after Biden. One of our top reporters said to us on air at 7:00 tonight that you're coming in here tonight to go after Biden. 

CASTRO: Well, then that reporter had it wrong. 

MATTHEWS: They got it right. 

CASTRO: Well, I didn't telegraph that before. What I did want to do is make clear the distinction on health care policy and, you know, what I pointed out tonight was that last time we were on the debate stage in Detroit, Senator Harris told Vice President Biden that his plan would leave 10 million people uncovered. 

MATTHEWS: Right. 

CASTRO: And he said, no it wouldn't. Well, the media, the fact checkers did their job and they said actually, yes, his plan would leave 10 million people uncovered, so I pointed that out tonight and —

MATTHEWS: But inaccurately. 

CASTRO: No, no, no.

MATTHEWS: No, no because Biden came back and said that he in fact said that they would pay for people that couldn't afford it. Well, we can go through all the tapes. 

CASTRO: If we go through the tapes, what you'll see he says. 

MATTHEWS: No, I'm saying what he did say. 

CASTRO: No, what he did say was he said that if you lose your job, that you would — you could automatically buy in. You could automatically buy in to his plan. This is significant, Chris. This is the difference. He say the words buy in, not everybody can buy in. 

MATTHEWS: No, he said anyone who can't afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare type option we have. No, “anyone who can’t afford it gets automatically enrolled into the Medicaid.” He didn't say he had to buy. This is what he said before.

CASTRO: If you go to a different section of his comments, he said lose your job, then you can automatically.

MATTHEWS: But he did say it would pay for people who couldn't afford it. 

CASTRO: No, but he said the words buy in. That's significant because the fact checkers have said that's exactly why his plan is going to leave 10 million people uncovered, so when he says — 

MATTHEWS: So you're glad you did this? 

CASTRO: Of course. When he said the words “buy in,” I said look, you know, you just said the words buy in. He said no, I didn't say buy in. I said yes, you did and when you get to your full transcript, you will see he did say that. 

MATTHEWS: Most people thought there was another aspect to this that you were suggesting a man of 76 years had lost the ability to remember what he just said. Short-term memory loss. 

CASTRO: That was not — no — not at all. 

MATTHEWS: It wasn’t what you were doing?

CASTRO: Not at all.

MATTHEWS: Because you rubbed in three or four times. You kept saying, you don't remember, you don't remember. 

CASTRO: We had a disagreement about whether he said the words buy in. He did say the words buy in when you look at the full transcript. 

MATTHEWS: He said if you can't afford it, you get automatically enrolled in the medicare type-option. 

CASTRO: And then what did he say if you lose your job? 

MATTHEWS: Well, he also said if you lose your job, you can automatically buy in to it, 

CASTRO: Buy into it, that’s right.

MATTHEWS: — but the poor people you were addressing are covered by what he said in that same paragraph. 

CASTRO: Not at all. Look, that’s significant. This is important because this is about the most important policy in our country. 

MATTHEWS: Okay. You know, these tapes are going to — excuse me, Mr. Secretary, these tapes are going to be played over and over again. So whatever we say here. 

CASTRO: We're here to debate health care policy. This covers all of this. This affects everybody. So, look. 

MATTHEWS: You believe he’s deficient? 

CASTRO: Well, I believe his health care plan is deficient. I respect Vice President Biden. I have tremendous respect for him. I think a great candidate. But let me tell you, when I get on that debate stage, whether it's in a primary or I get on the debate stage in October 2020 against Donald Trump, you better believe that I'm going to be there to prove my point. 

MATTHEWS: Right. 

CASTRO: And do you want somebody on that stage that is going to fight and prove their point and be able to beat Donald Trump? Because if you do, then I'm your Democrat. 

MATTHEWS: Anita Dunn, who’s a media adviser to the former Vice President said it was a cheap shot. Your reaction to that? 

CASTRO: I completely disagree. Of course, I know Anita. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s also on his campaign, so it’s not —

MATTHEWS: Of course. I don't deny that it's personal, but it's what she said. Your reaction is? Not a cheap shot? 

CASTRO:  — his health care plan would leave 10 million people uncovered. My approach would cover everybody. Good to see you.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary, thank you. Big night here. Thanks for coming on. 

CASTRO: Alright, thank you.

WILLIAMS: So Nicolle Wallace, because you’ve done prep for events like that, I'm guessing you go into an event with that line ready like an arrow, ready to use it. 

WALLACE: Yeah and he’s going to be judged by the Democratic primary voters for that strategic decision. He is also going to be judged, though, because it —

WILLIAMS: That didn't go well. 

WALLACE: — well two, things. You're judged based on what happens to you, the decisions you make in the moment and when he was on the stage, the decision he made in the moment was an unsettled illusion to Alzheimer's or ageism. 

WILLIAMS: Ageism, yeah. 

WALLACE: Now, if he thinks that winning, good luck and if he thinks that the notion that, you know, again, people have talked about Joe Biden's weakness as a candidate. If you actually think he is weak, then he'll fall on his own sort of time. I don't think anyone in the Democratic Party, if there’s a constituency in the Democratic base for Julian Castro to destroy Joe Biden by suggesting he has age-related memory loss, I haven't heard them yet. They haven't shown up in a poll. I haven't seen them on my show or yours and in this interview, I mean, having done press, this interview made me sweat. I sat here sweating. The appropriate thing to do in an interview when Chris Matthews is reading you the heinous transcript where you suggested Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, who may or may not be the nominee, might have a memory problem

WILLIAMS: Don’t fight the transcript.

WALLACE: — is to say I'm so sorry that's the impression. Biden — you know what you say? You say let me have those cards. I know what I said. I'm going to own it and I’m going to clean it up where it needs to be clean it up. But in no uncertain terms, I was not suggesting he has age-related memory loss. If I missed that, then I’ll go read some cue cards. But that was a disaster, and a disgrace. 

WILLIAMS: That's why I asked. 

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: He blew cleanup on aisle five. He had an opportunity to — 

WALLACE: He didn't even bring a broom. 

MCCASKILL: — he didn’t even — in fact, he was over in the next aisle creating another damn mess. What he should have said is I'm terribly sorry I gave that impression. I understand why people thought that. It was in the moment. I didn't mean to give that impression. I believe my health care plan is superior, but I want to acknowledge I made a mistake. 

WALLACE: Yeah. 

WALLACE: And let me just — I don't want to trigger any PTSD — political PTSD on you, but the most damaging thing for Hillary Clinton when she faced Donald Trump in the general election was that by the time the general election came around, Bernie Sanders had been in the race so long, he'd made many of the same attacks against Hillary Clinton that Donald Trump came around and made. If you see the Trump campaign circulating this video and making the same attack on Joe Biden from the far right that Julian Castro made from the far left, and it hurts Joe Biden, it will be on that man right there. 

WILLIAMS: Well, we have a chicken —

WALLACE: It's a political gravity thing.

(....)

1:08 a.m. Eastern

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: But the — the attack on — on Joe Biden in that, kind of, that ageism thing. We saw Eric Swalwell do that in the first debate and look where he ended up and I think that was not a smart move and the thing about Castro. I actually do think he brings in — he’s brought in some really substantive, kind of conversations, especially immigration, racial, talking about racial issues. But that moment? I think it’s going to hurt him. 

(....)

1:09 a.m. Eastern

JOEL PAYNE: Here's the problem. He essentially kind of almost created a shield around Joe Biden, I think, for the rest debate because he set the parameters so aggressively on what he said about, you know, Biden and his forgetfulness and some of the gaffe-prone things that he’s done on the trail that he almost gave Biden a pass for the rest of the debate. So I think it kind of protected Biden from any other attacks in the debate. So in a way it kind back fired on Castro and worked in Joe Biden's favor. 

(....)

1:11 a.m. Eastern

MIKE MURPHY: Look, Castro made history tonight. He came in with a dying presidential campaign at one percent. Not really much of a factor. He managed to do this Evel Knievel strategy and not only blow that up, I think he blew up his vice presidential chances because Joe Biden is the front-runner. He's a weak front-runner, but he is the most popular candidate in the Democratic Party and calling him senile on national TV was a cheap shot and it is this time second time he's done something that actually you can argue helps Donald Trump. In the first debate, he pinned everybody down on decriminalizing border crossings. All those hands went up and the Republicans in the campaign were all writing that down, grabbing that video for ads later. So Castro, I think, wins the not helping award tonight and I don't think, he got notoriety but the wrong kind. My guess is he won't make it to Christmas in the Democratic primary. 

REID: Jonathan Alter, the same to you because the thing about Joe Biden is if you're going on launch an attack against the front-runner, I said earlier when I was on that you have to keep in mind how other people feel about the front-runner. People generally like Joe Biden, so it’s a difficult pincher move you have to make to combat what he’s saying or to try to eat into his lead, but still keep in mind if he's generally liked by Democratic voters. 

JONATHAN ALTER: It was just a stupid thing for him to do and — and I agree with Mike. I think he blew his chance to be vice president. You know, Democrats don't want that kind of thing this year. They just don't and it’s almost like there were Republicans were when Ronald Reagan said, you know, the 11th commandment. Don't attack other Republicans. You can go after each other on policy. They want a vigorous debate on the future of the country. But once you make it personal, you electrocute yourself. 

REID: Yeah and the difficulty, an attack that seems ageist is several — more than one person is in Joe Biden's age group. Like he’s not alone in that age group.

ALTER: But it's not just age. It’s, you know, anything that feels personal. Democrats want to be united this time. They don't want their differences exploited by the Republicans and if you get out there doing something that — that everybody is a pundit now. So, everybody watching is wondering, are the Republicans going to be able to turn this into a talking point? And they don't want candidates who do that. 

NB Daily 2020 Presidential Debates Double Standards MSNBC Video Jonathan Alter Eugene Robinson Chris Matthews Julian Castro Joe Biden Nicolle Wallace Mike Murphy Claire McCaskill
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