‘What in the hell is wrong with that president?’
The first question for Mr. Castro at first glance appeared to be about President Trump, who said he would accept opposition research from foreign countries. But then the moderators asked Mr. Castro whether this wasn’t the same as the Democrats funding the Steele dossier.
Mr. Castro opens with what will likely be the big quote of this town hall, at least for the first half: “What in the hell is wrong with that president?”
He also called the situation in the United States “unprecedented,” unambiguously taking a shot at Mr. Trump.
The early Fox News questions are familiar Fox News questions.
These early topics of the Castro town hall will be familiar to regular Fox News viewers but perhaps not casual Democratic viewers tuning into the network for the first time: the Steele dossier and illegal immigration.
One thing that’s interesting to note is that Fox News has pushed illegal immigration as a big issue, repeatedly talking about caravans before the midterm elections last November. Ms. MacCallum asks if there’s anyone Mr. Castro won’t let into the country.
“We need to maintain a border that is secure, and we can even get better in some ways about border security,” Mr. Castro said.
One of the early audience members asked Mr. Castro about how her husband’s identity was taken by an undocumented immigrant. And now the network is playing old clips of Senator Chuck Schumer and former President Barack Obama
‘This is an issue that is personal for me.’
Mr. Castro, the only Latino candidate in the presidential race, gets a question from the audience is about immigration. “Do you determine the number of people pouring into our country to be a national crisis and what is the solution?” the audience member asks.
Mr. Castro immediately seizes the opportunity to punch at Mr. Trump again, saying, “He’s completely failed” on immigration. This has been one of Mr. Castro’s strengths during the campaign so far. His first policy proposal was a detailed immigration plan, which includes a proposal to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings. “This is an issue that is personal to me,” he says.
“Those of us in Texas know about the border,” he said.
Castro addresses the economy.
Mr. Castro next fielded a question on the federal debt and how we would implement his progressive policies. Mr. Castro says the first thing he would do is “repeal and replace” the Trump tax cuts.
“I think that we can do better than this president is doing right now because this president has made the situation worse not better,” he said.
When pressed about the strength of the economy, Mr. Castro says it is misguided to attribute it to the tax cuts, which “were way tilted toward the top 1 percent and wealthy corporations.”
He then promised he would release a plan on how he intended to pay for his progressive policies, noting he might look for ways that are outside the tax code.
Castro opines on police brutality.
When he gets a question about law enforcement, Mr. Castro, as he does on the campaign trail, listed by name the victims of police brutality, ending with one from Arizona. He received hearty applause from the audience. “The system is broken,” he said.
He then began discussing his plan to overhaul policing, which he released last week.
Ms. MacCallum later followed up with reports of people attacking police officers.
“We have a lot of police officers that are doing a good job in our country,’ he said, citing the officers he oversaw as mayor of San Antonio.
Ms. MacCallum continues to hammer this point, saying police officers have been made the enemy. “Not at all,” Mr. Castro said. “That’s why I’m always clear about the fact that I know there are good police officers out there.”
What is clear from the lines of questioning and Mr. Castro’s answers is that he is willing to engage in a back-and-forth on the topics that Fox has wanted to focus on and not, as many candidates do, simply pivot to another topic he’d prefer to discuss.
Castro pitches his mayoral record.
One of the advantages of these town halls for lesser-known Democrats is having these biography packages run on national television. The second bio video included that Mr. Castro attended Stanford and Harvard, was the youngest member of the Obama cabinet and a clip of his keynote convention speech, along with a short list ticking off his “progressive platform”
Mr. Castro’s next question after the commercial break was about his experience and he leaned into his mayoral record.
“I’m proud to be one of the few folks in this race that has executive experience,” he said of the 2020 field.
He went on to describe how he got a 1/8th of a cent sales tax approved in San Antonio to pay for an expansion of pre-K education.
Castro says the U.S. has “a lot of cleaning up to do” after Trump.
The next set of questions for Mr. Castro: foreign policy and specifically what he would keep America a world leader.
“I believe we have a lot of cleaning up to do, frankly, when this president is gone,” Mr. Castro said, promising to “repair those alliances” that have frayed.
He mocked Mr. Trump’s ability to get along with long-friendly foreign power: Canada.
“I mean who gets into a fight with Canada but somehow this president did,” he said.
As the only Latino running and a candidate who would be the first Latino president, Mr. Castro said he would have “a unique and unprecedented opportunity” to build relationships in Latin America.
On the current showdown Iran, he said he would “de-escalate” matters and that the conflict has been “ginned up.”
“They seem to be hell bent on moving us toward war with Iran,” he said of the Trump administration.
Castro questions why Fox keeps talking about Hillary Clinton.
After Mr. Castro got a follow-up on the Steele dossier, Mr. Castro pivoted, as other Democrats who have gone on Fox News for town halls have, to take a swing at Fox News.
He questioned why the network was so focused on Mrs. Clinton. “Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot,” he said, adding, “Those of us running on the ballot.”
Mr. Baier pushed back gently, defending the network’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton. But he avoided criticizing the candidate, as Chris Wallace did when he called Senator Kirsten Gillibrand “not very polite” for attacking the network during a recent town hall.
Castro passes on responding to Gillibrand, Biden on abortion.
After another commercial break, Mr. Castro was presented with a quote from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that likened appointing judges opposed to abortion rights to racism.
Part of the Gillibrand quote: “Imagine saying that it’s OK to appoint a judge who’s racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic.”
Mr. Castro did not take the bait. “What I believe is a woman should have the right to get an abortion in this country,” he said.
He added he would appoint judges who would uphold Roe v. Wade and repealing the Hyde Amendment. “I don’t believe that just because a woman is poor that she shouldn’t exercise that right to her own control of her body,” he said.
Mr. Castro later declined to specifically talk about Mr. Biden’s stance on the Hyde Amendment.
“I need to introduce myself,” he said, adding “I want them to know what Julián Castro believes and thinks.
When Mr. Baier pressed him, Mr. Castro brushed aside the follow-up with a bit of ribbing. “NBC has the debate, Bret,” he said.
The Democratic National Committee has barred Fox News from hosting a primary debate.
Castro was asked about violating the Hatch Act.
Mr. Baier asks about the Hatch Act, which a federal watchdog agency on Thursday cited to say Kellyanne Conway should be dismissed from office. Mr. Baier then points out that Mr. Castro was also accused of violating the Hatch Act when he was housing secretary under the Obama administration.
Mr. Castro immediately tries to draw a contrast between him and Ms. Conway.
“Instead of saying, look, I’m going to take these efforts to make sure that doesn’t happen again, she said, ‘To hell with that, I’m going to do it,’” he said. Unlike Ms. Conway, he added, he acknowledged what he did was a mistake.
“The true test of a leader is, what do you do when you make that mistake?” he said.