Posted by: JanF | July 10, 2014

President Obama: “This isn’t theater”

It is emblematic of the hyperpartisanship which has our country in a stranglehold that the president has to remind people that the humanitarian crisis on the border is not theater. But apparently, no crisis or incident (BENGHAZIII!), can be addressed without first dousing the follicles set ablaze by the media and their need to fill air time and print to satisfy the 10-minute news cycle.

From NBC News

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he is not visiting the U.S. border while in Texas because he is “not interested in photo-ops” and urged Congress to approve funding to deal with the surge of minors illegally streaming into the country.

“There is nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on,” Obama said. “This isn’t theater, this is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops.

Obama met with local politicians and religious leaders in Dallas, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to discuss the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border. The White House has asked for $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis, a request that has been panned by some Republicans who say the president’s policies are to blame for migrant children believing they can stay in the country illegally.

Pardon me, the president’s policies??? The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that reflected the president’s policies and which would have helped mitigate this crisis, including some of the money that is now part of an emergency request. But the Republican House of Representatives would not take up the bill because they knew it would pass and that would enrage the nativist wing of the increasingly wingnutty Republican Party. And it is more important to keep their base frothing for the mid-term elections than to solve problems.

In a statement, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) blames “bad public policy” … policies being talked about since 2000, advanced by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and then disowned by Presidential Candidate John McCain in 2008, giving permission for the rest of the Republican Party to run away from it.

Presidential Candidate Rick Perry sent a press release, er, letter to the president in 2012 complaining about the border crisis and said he never received an answer. The White House said “federal officials briefed the governor’s staff more than once on the administration’s efforts to deal with border security after receiving it.” By working quietly to address the issues, not in dueling press releases.

Apparently, Gov. Perry suggested Wednesday that the president act on his own to solve the crisis. Pardon me … HAHAHAHA!! Here is what the president replied:

“[Gov. Perry] suggested maybe you just need to go ahead and act and that might convince Republicans that they should go ahead and pass the supplemental. And I had to remind him I am getting sued right now by Mr. Boehner, apparently, for going ahead and acting instead of going through Congress.”

THAT is what passes for problem solving in the Do-Nothing 113th Congress.

Critics of the president complained because he drank beer and shot pool in Denver on Wednesday when he should have been visiting the border. He needs to DO SOMETHING!!! Or maybe not:

Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Tex.), whose district stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and includes the longest stretch of the Mexican border of any House district, defended the White House on Wednesday.

A presidential visit “would create an unneeded distraction by diverting law enforcement and other resources at a critical time,” Gallego said in a statement. “We don’t need photo ops, we need action. The ball is in Congress’s court to do this right.

And about the party of George W. “I Hire Arabian Horse Guys To Manage Disaster Relief” Bush and Senator John “I Had An Immigration Bill But Was Skeered By The Nativists” McCain complaining about misplaced priorities and socializing when there is a crisis?

“August 29, Hurricane Katrina makes landfall after forming over a 5 day period: 1,833 fatalities, $108 billion in damage”

Except in that case, there was something that a more engaged president could have done because that crisis did not involve foreign governments and dealing with a recalcitrant Congress; it simply required leadership and caring enough about human beings who were in a desperate situation to put competent people in charge.

~

Excerpts from the Statement by the President on Immigration (full transcript)

6:00 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. I just had a good meeting with Governor Perry, local officials, and faith leaders to talk about the steps that we have taken and that we need to take to address the humanitarian situation on the border. And I want to thank everybody who’s been involved for taking the time to talk to me.

It’s important to recognize two things. First, the surge of unaccompanied children, and adults with children, are arriving at one sector of the border, and that’s the Rio Grande Valley. Second, the issue is not that people are evading our enforcement officials. The issue is that we’re apprehending them in large numbers. And we’re working to make sure that we have sufficient facilities to detain, house, and process them appropriately, while attending to unaccompanied children with the care and compassion that they deserve while they’re in our custody.

While we intend to do the right thing by these children, their parents need to know that this is an incredibly dangerous situation and it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay. And I’ve asked parents across Central America not to put their children in harm’s way in this fashion.

Right now, there are more Border Patrol agents and surveillance resources on the ground than at any time in our history. And we deport almost 400,000 migrants each year. But as soon as it became clear that this year’s migration to the border was different than in past years, I directed FEMA to coordinate our response at the border. Members of my Cabinet and my staff have made multiple trips to facilities there. And we’re also addressing the root of the problem. I sent Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry and Secretary Johnson to meet with Central American leaders, as well as working with our international partners to go after smugglers who are putting their kids’ lives at risk.

And earlier this week, Mexico announced a series of steps that they’re going to take on their southern border to help stem the tide of these unaccompanied children.

Last week, I sent a letter to Congress asking them to increase penalties on smugglers and to give us flexibility to move migrants through the system faster.

Yesterday, I asked Congress to fund these efforts. About half of the resources would go to border security, enforcement, and expedited removal of people who don’t qualify for a humanitarian claim. About half would go to make sure we’re treating children humanely. We’d also make investments to further tackle the root problems in Central America.

So right now, Congress has the capacity to work with us, work with state officials, local officials, and faith-based groups and non-for-profits who are helping to care for these kids — Congress has the capacity to work with all parties concerned to directly address the situation. They’ve said they want to see a solution. The supplemental offers them the capacity to vote immediately to get it done.

Of course, in the long run, the best way to truly address this problem is for the House of Representatives to pass legislation fixing our broken immigration system, which, by the way, would include funding for additional thousands of Border Patrol agents — something that everybody down here that I’ve talked to indicates is a priority.

The Senate passed a common-sense, bipartisan bill more than a year ago. It would have strengthened the border, added an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents. It would have strengthened our backlogged immigration courts. It would have put us in a stronger position to deal with this surge and, in fact, prevent it. […]

So the bottom line is, actually, that there’s nothing that the Governor indicated he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to. I’ve asked Jeh Johnson to contact his head of Health and Human Services when he comes down for the sixth time at the end of this week to coordinate and make sure that some of the suggestions that the Governor has are technically feasible and what kind of resources might be needed. But what I emphasized to the Governor was the problem here is not a major disagreement around the actions that could be helpful in dealing with the problem. The challenge is, is Congress prepared to act to put the resources in place to get this done.

Another way of putting it — and I said this directly to the Governor — is are folks more interested in politics, or are they more interested in solving the problem? If they’re interested in solving the problem, then this can be solved. If the preference is for politics, then it won’t be solved.

[…]

The final point I’ll make is I just want to thank some of the faith-based groups that I just met with, as well as mayors, commissioners, local officials. Dallas has been incredibly compassionate in looking at some sights, some facilities in which they can accommodate some of these children. And I indicated in hearing the stories of churches that are prepared to not just make donations but send volunteers to help construct some of these facilities or fix them up, and their willingness to volunteer in providing care and assistance to these children — I told them thank you, because it confirmed what I think we all know, which is the American people are an incredibly compassionate people and when we see a child in need we want to care for them.

But what I think we all agreed on is, is that the best thing that we can do is to make sure that the children are able to live in their own countries safely. And that’s why it’s going to be important, even as we solve the short-term problem here, for us to be able to direct attention and resources and assistance — as we’re doing, but not at a sustained and high enough level — back in Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador and other places, so that parents don’t think that somehow it’s safer for their children to send them thousands of miles just so that they don’t get harmed.

Press questions followed.

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