Even Andrea Mitchell Rips Obama Over Immigration Crisis

In an interview with White House adviser Cecilia Munoz on her Wednesday 12 p.m. ET hour show, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell actually tore into the President's poor handling of the immigration crisis and his refusal to visit the border: "...the reality is that the White House has been slow to react. And that there is something to be said for presidential optics, if you will, for presidential appearances, that's part of leadership, is it not?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Moments earlier, Munoz tried to argue that there were "a whole host of activities" being undertaken by the administration to "make sure that we stay ahead of the situation." Mitchell interrupted her: "But you're not ahead of the situation. With all due respect, the reality on the ground is that the administration did not stay ahead of this."

Mitchell played a sound bite from Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar, whom she had interviewed in the previous segment, blasting Obama for not visiting the border: "The optics and the substance of it is that he should show up at the border. He can just look aloof and detached and not go to the border, send surrogates down there and say that he's got everything under control."

Turning back to Munoz, Mitchell declared: "...leadership does involve showing the concern....And people are asking, including this Democratic congressman, one of your own members, why he is looking so aloof, and why ever he decided to play pool last night in Colorado."

Munoz claimed: "At the end of the day, he's less concerned about optics and more concerned about substance and more concerned about impact."

Mitchell observed: "Well, so far the politics aren't working and the substance isn't working, given the flow [of illegal immigrants]. And so, somebody's got to revisit this."

As she continued, she sympathized with Munoz:

I know that your unfortunate job is to say what has been done, but what has been done so far has not stemmed the flow. And you can say it – you know, the White House can say it all they want, but at some point, people are going to ask, and right now your own Democrats on the Hill are asking, why this was permitted to happen, to get to this stage.


Here are excerpts of the July 9 exchange:

12:14 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: And as we just mentioned, President Obama is in Texas today, or he will be shortly, raising money for the midterms, but he will not bow to pressure we're told, including, as we just heard, from his own party, to visit the border.

Joining me now is White House domestic policy council director Cecilia Munoz. Thank you very much for joining us. I don't know if you just heard Congressman [Henry] Cuellar [D-TX], I can recap it for you, but he said that the President looks like he's disengaged. He decried the optics of him shooting pool and drinking beer in Colorado last night when he's not going a couple of hundred miles from either Austin or Dallas to the border or to visit with the children who are being held on a military base in detention centers.

CECILIA MUNOZ: So I would just point out, the President has been engaged, in fact, engaged the entirety of the federal government way back in May, when it became clear that the pattern of migration this year was going to be very different compared to previous years. On June 1st, he announced that he would be asking FEMA to coordinate the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and HHS to step up an effort to make sure that we were managing the situation properly. There's a whole host of activities that have taken place since then to make sure that we stay ahead of the situation.

MITCHELL: But you're not ahead of the situation. With all due respect, the reality on the ground is that the administration did not stay ahead of this. That it should have been before May, before June. There were months where this was building up. And the impression – the reality is that the White House has been slow to react. And that there is something to be said for presidential optics, if you will, for presidential appearances, that's part of leadership, is it not?

MUNOZ: Well, so, leadership is really about making sure that we're being effective in managing the situation...Stemming this migration, stemming the tide. Making sure that we make it clear to parents who are considering putting their children in the hands of smugglers because the smugglers are misleading them and telling them that they can expect the ability to stay once they get in the United States, that this is false. And that this is an incredibly dangerous journey.

(...)

MITCHELL: The reality, though, is, according to our own reporting from Stephanie Gosk in Honduras and then Guatemala, is that the message that is getting through to these kids in some of the most dangerous places on Earth is that if you get to the States, you can stay. You can stay at least long enough to go through the deportation process. That it can take a year, it can take two years.

I know today that the Justice Department, the deputy attorney general has taken steps to try to speed this up, to throw more money at it, but at the same time, that's not the message that's getting to them south of the border. And you've got a crisis on the border. Let me just play what a Democratic congressman from Texas just moments ago told me.

REP. HENRY CUELLAR [D-TX]: The optics and the substance of it is that he should show up at the border. He can just look aloof and detached and not go to the border, send surrogates down there and say that he's got everything under control.

MITCHELL: I mean, I know the White House can say he's not going to just play politics with this, but leadership does involve showing the concern. He went to – with Hurricane Sandy, he went and met with Chris Christie and showed his concern for the Jersey shore. And people are asking, including this Democratic congressman, one of your own members, why he is looking so aloof, and why ever he decided to play pool last night in Colorado.

MUNOZ: So, the President spoke in the Rose Garden about the situation more than a week ago. He has spoken about the situation on national television, and he's mobilized all of the federal government. At the end of the day, he's less concerned about optics and more concerned about substance and more concerned about impact.

(...)

MITCHELL: Well, so far the politics aren't working and the substance isn't working, given the flow. And so, somebody's got to revisit this. I know that your unfortunate job is to say what has been done, but what has been done so far has not stemmed the flow. And you can say it – you know, the White House can say it all they want, but at some point, people are going to ask, and right now your own Democrats on the Hill are asking, why this was permitted to happen, to get to this stage.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC