Thursday, 26 January 2012
Governor versus President
Longstanding tension between Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Democratic President Barack Obama flared into the public spotlight Wednesday just after Air Force One touched down in Phoenix.
Brewer, who was on the tarmac to greet Obama, hand-delivered a letter before engaging the president "intensely" for several minutes, including pointing her finger directly at him, according to Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, acting as a pool reporter for other media outlets.
Accounts from both camps later said the terse talk focused on Brewer's book - "Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media and Cynical Politicos to Secure America's Border."
The book, which was released in November, describes a June 2010 Oval Office meeting between Obama and Brewer aimed at diffusing conflicts surrounding Arizona's controversial state immigration law and the administration's immigration policy.
At the time, the White House called it a "good meeting," while Brewer's staff said it was "cordial."
But Brewer paints a much different picture in her book.
Brewer complains in "Scorpions for Breakfast" that she and her staff were treated coldly by White House aides, prevented from taking pictures in the holding room outside the Oval Office and that their cell phones and cameras were "confiscated" by Secret Service.
"Too bad we weren't illegal aliens, or we could have sued them," she writes.
During her meeting with the president, Brewer said Obama was "condescending" and professorial, "lecturing" on his efforts to promote comprehensive immigration reform.
"It wasn't long before I realized I was hearing the president's stump speech," she said. "Only I was supposed to listen without talking. Did he care to hear the view from the actual scene at the border? Did the opinions and observations of the people of Arizona mean anything to him? I didn't think so."
"He was patronizing," she said. "Then it dawned on me: He's treating me like the cop he had over for a beer after he bad-mouthed the Cambridge police, I thought. He thinks he can humor me and then get rid of me."
Obama raised his objections to Brewer's account face-to-face with the governor Wednesday.
"He was a little disturbed about my book," Brewer told reporters after the meeting broke. "I said to him that I have all the respect in the world for the office of the president. The book is what the book is. I asked him if he read the book. He said he read the excerpt."
Obama told Brewer "that he didn't feel that I had treated him cordially," Brewer said. "I said I was sorry he felt that way but I didn't get my sentence finished.
"Anyway, we're glad he's here. I'll regroup," she added.
A senior administration official later told reporters that Obama's comments were in response to Brewer's request for another one-on-one meeting.
"The governor handed the president a letter and said she was inviting him to meet with her. The president said he'd be glad to meet with her again, but did note that after their last meeting, a cordial discussion in the Oval Office, the governor inaccurately described the meeting in her book," the official told reporters, on condition of anonymity.
Brewer, who said in her letter to Obama that she wanted to discuss "Arizona's comeback" with him, did not attend the presidential event at a Phoenix factory today. But she did make several subsequent media appearances to talk about her tarmac encounter.
In an interview with KFYI radio in Phoenix, Brewer said Obama was "somewhat thin-skinned and a little tense, to say the least."
"I was very surprised. I was taken aback. I really was," she said. "I was shocked by the sternness of it all."