Obama caught in border photo-op catch-22, White House says
July 10th, 2014
02:12 PM ET
2 months ago

Obama caught in border photo-op catch-22, White House says

(CNN) - Damned if he does. Damned if he doesn't.

That is essentially the White House explanation for why President Obama opted against a visit to the country's besieged southern border during his trip to Texas this week.

Frustrated White House officials have argued privately that Republicans in Congress would have criticized the president had he decided to see the crisis on the border first-hand.

"I'm not interested in photo ops. I'm interested in solving a problem," Obama said in response to the uproar over his Texas itinerary.

Instead of personally viewing the "humanitarian situation," as the White House now describes the border emergency, the president chose to add a brief meeting on the crisis with Texas Governor Rick Perry and other elected officials in Dallas on Wednesday.

"And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they're giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I've already sent to Congress," the president told reporters.

Republican critics have seized on the White House decision to pass on a border visit in favor of keeping an extensive fundraising schedule as an example of a detached, out-of-touch president.

"The problem speaks for itself when the president, who would prefer to hang out with campaign donors and other political supporters, would decide not to have any interaction with those that are directly affected by his failed policies," said Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas.

But a White House official noted how Cornyn's office had characterized Obama's trip to the border for a speech on immigration reform three years ago.

"What Senator Cornyn is looking for, President Obama cannot deliver with another speech or photo op, and that's presidential leadership. Words matter little when there is no action," Kevin McLaughlin, a Cornyn spokesman said just days before the president's 2011 speech at the border.

GOP critics still complain about some of the barbs included in Obama's 2011 remarks at the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso.

"You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol," Obama said at the time about his Republican critics.

"Or they'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied."

A trip to the border this week, a White House official said, may have invited similar GOP complaints.

What aides to the president apparently did not anticipate was the surge of second-guessing from fellow Democrats.

"It does bother me. I wish the President of the United States were going down there," Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, said Wednesday on CNN's "Crossfire."

But a White House official said the president's political advisers are not disappointed in defections from party loyalists. The official acknowledged that the plight faced by tens of thousands of Central American children now in immigration limbo has emotions running high.

A trip to the border in the coming weeks has not been ruled out, one official said.

White House officials note other top administration officials have made repeated trips to the border. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson makes his 6th visit to the border on Friday.


Filed under: Immigration • President Obama
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. S.B. Stein

    He knows the problem is there. In this case, seeing it in person doesn't help things. If Congress is willing to work with him, then that might move the problem along.

    July 10, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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