During the tedious health care part of the debate, Joe Biden and Julián Castro went at each other's throats over whether Biden said something and then forgot he said it.
September 12, 2019

This exchange between Julián Castro and Joe Biden was brutal and unnecessary, in my opinion. In the end, it made Castro look small and ageist and Biden look belligerent and bellicose and no voter was enlightened. If I could advise Dem candidates on how to debate I would use this example as how NOT to debate.

At one point or another after this exchange, Cory Booker pointed out that now is the time for these disagreements. This is true. This is primary season. But Castro went for the "you're a senile old man" line. That's bad.

This is a cleaned-up closed caption transcript. It is likely not complete, but in the interests of time I'm putting it here.

CASTRO TO BIDEN: Of course, I also worked for President Obama, Vice President Biden, and I know that the problem with your plan is that it leaves 10 million people uncovered. Now, on the last debate stage in Detroit, you said that wasn't true and Senator Harris brought that up. There was a fact-check of that, they said that was true.

You know, I grew up with a grandmother who had type II diabetes and I watched her condition get worse and worse. But that whole time, she had Medicare. I want every single American family to have a strong Medicare plan available. If they choose to hold onto strong, solid private health insurance, I believe they should be able to do that but the differences between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in and I would not require them to opt in, they would automatically be enrolled. That's a big difference, because Barack Obama's vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered. He wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would do that. Your plan would not.

BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.

CASTRO: You just said that two minutes ago. You just two minutes ago they would have to buy in.

BIDEN: If you qualify --

CASTRO: -- are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I can't believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you're saying they don't have to buy in. You're forgetting that.

BIDEN: I said anyone like your grandmother who has no money.

CASTRO: If you lose your job, for instance, his health care plan would not automatically enroll you. You would have to opt in. My health care plan would. That is a big difference. I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not.

BIDEN: I'll that will be a surprise to him.

First of all, it appears that Castro is wrong, and that Biden specifically said that people who can't afford healthcare will be automatically enrolled in Medicare.

Assuming for the sake of argument that it's the heat of the moment and Castro genuinely thought he heard what he heard, the invocation of the ageist "are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago" was uncalled for. Attack the policy all day long, but stay away from those kinds of ageist attacks.

And secondly, the whole "I'm fulfilling Obama's legacy" claim is outlandish. There's no need to do that, especially when Biden was his VP for 8 years. It rings hollow and seems petty.

Castro can do better and he should.

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