Texas Governor Rick Perry got his turn to speak about his meeting with President Obama on Wednesday night, hours after the president characterized the pair's roundtable immigration discussion as "constructive." Speaking on Fox News's "Hannity," Perry took the opportunity to say that President Obama was acting like George W. Bush after Katrina, because he didn't plan on visiting the Texas border during his trip this week. “I think about the criticism that George W. Bush received when he didn’t go to New Orleans [during] Katrina, this is no different,” he said.
President Obama said on Wednesday that he didn't plan a border trip this week because he was already addressing the crisis through proposing informed solutions to fix the problem, and didn't need a "photo op." "This isn't theater," he added. Perry told Fox host Sean Hannity that during his brief one-on-one meeting with Obama before the roundtable discussion, he explained why he wanted a presidential border visit anyway: "I really want you to come and see this because this is important for you to absorb as a father, but more importantly as President of the United States," Perry said he told Obama. The insinuation is a familiar one from critics of the president: Perry is making a character assessment about Obama's ability to "lead." That came up more directly later in the interview:
As I was discussing with him, I did a lot of listening, he let me know what the feeling is about these things, what the fixes were, I [interjected] where I could. The fact is, I don’t know whether he heard what I said. Because a leader acts, and what I haven’t seen out of this president are actions that make me think he understands what’s going on. It’s one of the reasons I want him to come to the border.”
“He needs to understand instinctively and intuitively and with his own two eyes what’s going on on the border,” Perry added to Hannity.
Perry, who might be running for president in 2016, also repeated his request that the President increase the presence of National Guard troops on the border in response to an influx of immigrants since last fall, including many undocumented, unaccompanied minors. Perry called the situation in the south of his state a "humanitarian crisis" on Wednesday, and said that the administration should have moved to fix it years ago. In a statement Wednesday night, Obama told reporters that he asked Perry to support his $3.8 billion proposal to address the crisis in the short term, which would include funding for many of the exact things Perry is asking for. Obama added that "the only disagreement I had with Governor Perry was that he wanted me to go ahead and do it without Congress" passing authorization for the funding he requested. Obama also asked Congress to do another thing it has so far failed to do: pass more comprehensive immigration form to fix the U.S.'s immigration system so this doesn't happen again.
Of course, Perry's Katrina comparison here is hardly new in the context of the border crisis. For reference on what, exactly, Perry is comparing the huge influx of immigrants and subsequent backup in the bureaucracy to: Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, and killed at least 1,833 people in the storm and flooding. Despite widespread criticism of FEMA's slow, incomplete response to the disaster, George W. Bush famously told FEMA chief Michael Brown that he was doing "a heckuva job." Brown resigned 10 days later.