The Slatest

Make Julián Castro the Speaker of the House

The hand of an otherwise unseen production technician adjusts a seated Castro's earpiece.
Julián Castro after the Democratic debate in Houston on Sept. 12.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that the intelligence-agency whistleblower complaint everyone was writing vague news stories about, which reportedly involves an inappropriate “promise” Donald Trump made to a world leader, has some relation to Ukraine. Given prior reporting on the administration’s relationship to that country, the news suggests that Trump’s “promise” involved a deal in which Ukraine would conduct an investigation into alleged, possibly nonexistent Joe Biden–related corruption in exchange for foreign aid.

This would be about as direct an abuse of presidential power as is conceivably possible—really the kind of thing where, if you don’t get impeached for it, they might as well take the part about impeachment out of the Constitution and throw it down a well.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement on the matter:

If the President has done what has been alleged, then he is stepping into a dangerous minefield with serious repercussions for his Administration and our democracy … We will continue to follow the facts and explore every possible option to ensure the American people get the truth. We would hope that Republicans would join us in supporting the Constitution.

In other words, Pelosi remains so stubbornly opposed to impeachment that she will continue to try to run out the clock while preventing the Democratic Party from doing any oversight of the administration whatsoever. (If you think that assertion is an exaggeration, look at the quote in this post about how the White House believes it can get away with completely ignoring congressional investigations.)

This is an unacceptable state of affairs in a democracy that has, you know, laws. So who should take Pelosi’s place?

Let’s acknowledge reality and say that this person needs to be able to work with and understand the Dem caucus’s corporate-friendly centrists. But let’s also stipulate that the person does not have to have been in Congress for 30 years, which is seemingly the only current requirement for Democratic leaders, and that they need to have an understanding of the behavior of the contemporary media, electorate, and Republican Party that incorporates knowledge available after the mid-’90s. Or in other words: They need to be able to guard the dog.

How about the guy from this thing?

Julián Castro Questions Biden’s Memory at Democratic Debate

Yes, him. Julián Castro’s résumé is that of a fairly center-of-the-road up-and-coming liberal politician—Stanford degree, mayorship in San Antonio, Obama Cabinet position. So he is not someone who will be uncomfortable in a room of donors. But he’s running for president, and he knows that he needs to stand out. So he’s being aggressive—attacking the front-runner for his (extremely real) memory/coherence-related shortcomings, advocating for impeachment, and pressing the rest of the field with forward-looking policy arguments. That he isn’t moving up in the polls is probably a good thing for aggression-oriented Democrats, in that his path is blocked by a number of other candidates who, despite their ideological differences, have felt the pressure from grassroots-attuned rivals like Castro and made “not preemptively conceding on every issue” an important part of their platform.

If Castro isn’t going to be passing these candidates and winning the primary, though, he might as well start focusing on a more achievable goal: running for the San Antonio–abutting seat that Republican Rep. Will Hurd is vacating in West Texas and promising that if elected he’ll run for speaker.

It’s better than doing nothing!