Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that President Obama’s refusal to visit the border in Texas was “no different” than former President George W. Bush’s initial reaction to Hurricane Katrina.
"I think about the criticism that George W. Bush got when he didn't go to New Orleans at Katrina," Perry told Fox News Wednesday night, just hours after meeting with Obama in Dallas. "This is no different."
Perry isn’t the first politician to compare Obama’s reaction to the flood of immigrant children crossing the border to Bush’s handling of the devastating hurricane, which left hundreds dead. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) made the comparison in another interview with Fox News.
“I’m sure that President Bush thought the same thing, that he could just look at everything from up in the sky, and then he owned it after a long time,” Cuellar said. “So 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.”
White House officials have rejected the comparison out of hand.
“I think it doesn’t make sense to compare this to a natural disaster. This is a humanitarian situation that we have been on top of from the very beginning,” Cecilia Muñoz, the White House Domestic Policy Council director, told MSNBC on Wednesday. “It involves the entire federal government, it involves our partners in Central America who have acknowledged that we all share a responsibility to make sure we stop this situation before it starts.”
And shortly after meeting with Perry, Obama argued there was nothing taking place on the border that he was not “intimately aware of and briefed on.”
“This isn’t theater. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops; I’m interested in solving a problem,” Obama said. “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.”
In that same speech, Obama called his conversation with Perry “constructive” and said there was “nothing that the governor indicated he’d like to see that I have a philosophical objection to.”
Perry said he was “glad the president thinks that what I said makes sense, because we've been saying it for many years now.”
But the governor, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, said he continued to press Obama “to come and see this” himself.
“Because this is important for you to absorb as a father, but more importantly as the president of the United States,” Perry said, adding that Obama “needs to understand instinctively and intuitively — and with his own two eyes — what's going on on that border.”
"I don't know whether he heard what I said," Perry continued. "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.”