Julian Castro now facing GOP trial by fire

  Julian Castro will get his first 2016 campaign test when he comes up for confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans could attempt to use…

President Barack Obama has appointed Julian Castro for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He must now undergo Senate confirmation hearings. (AP Photo/Bahram Mark Sobhani)

Julian Castro will get his first 2016 campaign test when he comes up for confirmation in the Senate, where Republicans could attempt to use those hearings to rough him up a bit.

The San Antonio mayor isn’t expected to have too difficult of time winning confirmation as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to which President Barack Obama has appointed him.

SEE ALSO: Brighter lights, bigger stage for Julian Castro?

But it’s those hearings that sometimes can prove embarrassing and, if so, who knows what kind of awkward televised moment it could provide for some Republican hit piece in 2016, should Castro happen to make it on to what many Democrats believe could be a presidential dream ticket.

Hillary Clinton and Julian Castro. There have even been posters promoting that since last year.

But it hinges on Castro securing this Cabinet plum job by making it through the confirmation process, ideally unscathed by anything more than political barbs and rhetoric.

“Probably wasn’t going to happen from the mayor’s job,” says Henry Cisneros, himself a former mayor of San Antonio and HUD secretary under President Bill Clinton. “You have to have national positions of greater responsibility, breadth — and this begins that course…

“Could he be on a Hillary ticket as a result of learning the breadth of the issues and the nation? The answer is yes.”

But Castro must also avoid the political pitfalls that often curse the dreams of rising stars and break a curse that has existed since the Roosevelt era.

No cabinet member has risen to run successfully on a presidential ticket since 1940, when Franklin D. Roosevelt dumped his vice president, John Nance Garner, and chose Henry Wallace, his agriculture secretary, as he sought re-election.

It was Cisneros who strongly urged Castro to join the Obama Cabinet, especially if he wanted to position himself to be considered as the Democratic Party nominee’s running mate.

Castro needed a higher profile office, Cisneros said he told him, than just being mayor of the seventh largest city in the country, a position largely ceremonial since it is the city manager who actually runs San Antonio.

Despite the growing Latino population in the state, Texas still remains a Republican stronghold that also did not look favorable to Cisneros winning statewide office there any time soon.

“You don’t want to bank your political future on the politics of Texas right now as a Democrat,” says Cisneros.

Be assured that if there are any skeletons in Julian Castro’s background, they’ll come out in the hearings, if they haven’t already been exposed in the vetting by the FBI done leading up to the nomination.

Of course, this is a tricky process, which undid Cisneros’ career and his own future political prospects.

In late 1992 and early 1993, Cisneros was vetted by the FBI, and the Senate confirmed him. The skeleton in Cisneros’ closet was an extra-marital affair that most people were aware of, and Cisneros talked about it to the FBI.

But he lied to the FBI about financially supporting the woman after the affair ended, and the former mistress’s subsequent comments confirmed the arrangement he tried to hide.

Cisneros was indicted on federal charges of lying to the FBI and only avoided going to prison under a plea bargain that included him resigning his Cabinet position.

Castro’s mother and Cisneros were kindergarten classmates in San Antonio in the early 1950s, and he has remained a friend of the family over the years.

So hopefully, now serving as an unofficial adviser to Julian and his twin brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Cisnero has given the mayor the wisdom of his experience about not being forthright with the FBI about everything.

“Doing a good job at this for the next two years while Texas is going through the political fever that it is in,” says Cisneros, almost drifting off, as if imagining what could be. “I don’t think it hurts to be away from that, doing substantive work that gets you executive experience (and) helps you age on the job.”

SEE ALSO: Texas Republicans must bring down Julian Castro or face defeat