Will President Obama meet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to discuss border issues during his upcoming trip to the Lone Star State? That’s up in the air at the moment as the two men – or their aides, really – struggle for perceived political advantage in a possible face-to-face confab.
Right now, it’s off. But both Mr. Obama and Governor Perry could benefit from high-profile togetherness. So there’s a chance it might still happen.
The uproar about this started Monday when Perry rejected what he described as an offer of an airport greeting in Austin. “A quick handshake on the tarmac will not allow for a thoughtful discussion regarding the humanitarian and national security crises enveloping the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas,” wrote Perry in a letter released to the media.
Perry offered instead to change his schedule around to accommodate a “substantive” meeting with Obama on the issue during the latter’s Texas trip later this week.
The White House responded with a letter from senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett inviting Perry to a scheduled conference with local faith leaders and elected officials in Dallas on Wednesday. “The president would welcome a meeting with you while he is in Texas,” Ms. Jarrett wrote.
There’s no word yet whether Perry will accept the offer.
For Obama, a meeting would help quiet charges that he’s avoiding border problems. He’s in Texas largely to raise money for congressional candidates, so the optics – Obama asking for cash while undocumented children are apprehended and warehoused not far away – could be bad for the White House.
It’s not just Republicans who are upset about this. Some elected Democrats aren’t happy, too. “I hope this doesn’t become the Katrina moment for President Obama, saying that he doesn’t need to come to the border. He should come down,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) of Texas told Fox News.
For Perry the political advantages and disadvantages of a meeting are less clear-cut. In general, governors aren’t always happy when presidents show up in their states, as they’re used to be being the top political figures within their borders. That’s doubly true when the president is from the other party.
As a Republican, Perry could get in trouble with folks on his own side if he appears too friendly with the president. That’s what happened with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) in fall 2012 when he toured the hard-hit Jersey coast with Obama, whom he famously embraced, following superstorm Sandy.
But Perry, a former presidential candidate, may run for the White House himself in 2016. To appear as an equal with a sitting chief executive could in essence raise his own stature among GOP rivals. That effect would be particularly pronounced if it appears he has the upper hand in some manner. After all, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona got a lot of Republican huzzahs for appearing to wave her finger in the president’s face on the tarmac in Phoenix in January 2012.
So we’ll see what happens this time. Meanwhile, on the substantive side, Obama is getting ready to ask Congress for an emergency infusion of $3.8 billion to help handle the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border. The cash is supposed to pay for more immigration judges, detention facilities, legal aid, and other things to address what the administration has termed a “humanitarian crisis."