Lethargic. It is a word that your humble correspondent thought he could retire now that lethargic labor reporter Mike Elk has left Politico. However, after reading Politico's almost sneering article about possible Hillary Clinton running mate should she be nominated, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, I might have to pull that word out of retirement and pair it with "lightweight." Most of White House Senior Reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere's report portrayed Castro as a rather lethargic lightweight but one item was somewhat shocking. It was about why Castro turned down an appointment as Secretary of Homeland Security:
He said no to Homeland Security before anyone ever offered it, after a Democratic operative with White House ties reached out to gauge his interest in taking over for Janet Napolitano. No way, Castro and his tight circle of advisers decided. The concern wasn’t that he had no national security or law enforcement experience, but, according to people familiar with the conversations at the time, because: what if there was an attack on his watch? That would have ended the political career he’d started with a fundraiser with his twin brother among his Harvard Law classmates before they graduated.
So what really mattered to Castro was that an attack on his watch would have ruined his precious political career. Just as shocking was the offer of that position to him despite the fact he was completely unqualified.
Okay, now on to the fun stuff as we see how this lethargic lightweight is really chock full of fluff. Let us start with how Julian Castro is supposed to be the voice of young Latinos in the country. I mean his whole shtick is how steeped the former mayor of San Antonio is in Mexican American politics and culture plus the fact that his mother was one of the founders of La Raza Unida political party. Well, guess what? He can't even speak Spanish:
At home, Julián Castro’s been spending more time reading and watching television in Spanish, trying to get his speaking skills up to speed.
Here is Castro answering questions in very fluent English on Univision:
As for Castro's tenure as San Antonio mayor, the word "lightweight" comes to mind again:
Castro’s a young-looking 41, a lower-level Cabinet secretary with a record that’s most distinguished for not having anything go wrong. He's the former mayor of the seventh-largest city with a record that includes a big win in implementing universal pre-K, but the job is technically part-time and pays only $3,000 per year. (Most of the municipal government is run by an unelected city manager, though many San Antonians expect the mayor to act like they're full-time.)
Is that the best the Democrats can come up with? A part-time figurehead mayor who got paid 60 bucks per week to do almost nothing with a quick pit stop at HUD before attempting to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office? Oh, and what does his job at HUD entail?
When detailed policy questions about housing and mortgage financing came up, those people said, he’d freeze up. He seems genuinely interested in helping people, they’d say, but not interested enough in HUD policy to want to engage deeply.
“People like Julián Castro and he’s not stopping them from doing their work,” said one person familiar with the Department. “He’s also not driving it. He’s not interested and engaged like that. But it’s hard not to like him.”
...Castro’s no “houser,” as HUD people say, and he’s suffered in a lot of eyes from the comparisons to Shaun Donovan, the rare HUD secretary who truly came up through housing finance and policy and was known on the job for his seemingly endless policy brainstorming sessions that Castro’s scrapped. Instead of Donovan’s giant briefing books, Castro’s ordered they all come with one-page summaries with very clearly defined options.
...At HUD and the White House, people strain to think of many moments between the secretary and the president that stand out, aside from Obama inviting him to ride in his limo between every stop on a trip together to Arizona last January.
Did he get to rub the presidential super decoder ring during the ride? We don't find out but one has the feeling that Dovere is not so subtly warning the Democrats away from choosing this lightweight as a vice-presidential candidate.