'This is Not a Border Crisis' CNN’s Kohn Insists

Discussing the growing immigration crisis on the July 9 edition of At This Hour with Berman and Michaela, CNN commentator Sally Kohn and host Michaela Pereira both jumped to defend President Obama from attacks from both Republicans and Democrats on his response to the flood of children arriving at the southern border.

Pereira wondered how people would dare to label the crisis as Obama’s Katrina moment, asking, “is it even fair to compare this to Katrina? You think about the fact that hundreds of people lost their lives, their homes, their livelihoods, is this a fair assessment?” Meanwhile, liberal pundit Sally Kohn went further, rejecting the entire premise that there is even a crisis to begin with: [MP3 audio here; video below]

This is not a border crisis. These kids are coming to the border, they are getting stopped, the border is working, Republicans are trying to turn this into a narrative of oh the border isn't working, we have a crisis. The immigration policies aren't working. These kids, this uptick in kids coming from all over the place, from all kinds of countries in Central America has been happening since long before the president started giving immigration access to younger kids.

Ah, yes, it is ultimately the Republicans who are to blame for this crisis, not the president whose policies have led to the flood of children to the border in recent months. Thankfully, Pereira noted this point, arguing that “One could argue it isn't working if you have numbers that we're seeing, 60, 70, 80,000 children arriving and then being stuck in this sort of purgatory where conditions are poor.”

Seemingly doing a 180 and contradicting her response from just seconds earlier, Kohn claimed, “I'm not disagreeing there's not a crisis. But what Republicans are saying is, it's a sign the president has failed to secure the border. Well, they're not slipping through holes in the border.”

Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat attempted to correct Kohn’s point by arguing that while the border is being enforced in this situation, critics of the president are making a much broader critique of his immigration policies:

They're including the system for holding deportation hearings, the system for housing refugees and so on. I think yes, obvious it's not, technically a problem with the border patrol, although it is in the sense that there's a lot of evidence that these agents who are essentially stopping these migrants and taking responsibility for them are being forced to neglect other duties, like drug interdiction dropped off during this crisis.

It’s clear that Kohn and Pereira, along with most of the mainstream media, will go out of their way to minimize any political damage the president may suffer from this immigration crisis.

The relevant portion of the transcript is below:

CNN
At This Hour with Berman and Michaela
July 9, 2014
11:13 a.m. Eastern

MICHAELA PEREIRA: We are joined by CNN political commentators Sally Kohn and Ross Douthat. Ross, let me ask you right off the bat, is it even fair to compare this to Katrina? You think about the fact that hundreds of people lost their lives, their homes, their livelihoods, is this a fair assessment?

ROSS DOUTHAT, New York Times: Well, this is the nature of American politics, we always compare whatever is happening right now to something that everyone agrees was a disaster in the last presidency. So obviously there are big differences, Katrina was a specific natural disaster that happened in a very short time as hurricanes tend to do. Whereas this has been much more of a slow building crisis, you know, that child migrations have been increasing over the last three years, they're spiking now. But I don't think it has the same, I don't it has the same resonance probably for the American people. That being said, I think it's just bizarre that the president isn't going to the border. I think, you know, when you're taking fire from Democratic congressmen over the issue, there's no reason to even risk the kind of perceptions that were associated with Bush just flying over the disaster area after Katrina. And I think it's a sort of strange feature of this president's entire second term. A weird, sort of disconnection from some of the basic optics of being president. But, yeah, I guess that’s all.

JOHN BERMAN, host: Sally, Ross brings up optics. You know, we gotta talk about optics, because last night the president was out in Denver, shooting pool with Governor John Hickenlooper, having some beers there, everyone deserves to have their fun. But that–is that a picture the White House should be concerned about with this crisis, with this discussion hanging over his head?

SALLY KOHN, CNN commentator: You know, look, on the one hand we could have a conversation about sort of every optical moment and choice that this White House has made. Not all of which I would necessarily agree with, but I do think it's fascinating that they do seem to be held to this sort of ridiculously higher standard of oh well he's only supposed to do one thing at one time. There's always crises. There's always problems and he has to juggle a lot of balls at the same time. Look, this sort of notion of he should be going to the border. Look, if I were this president, I would be going to certainly visit these camps where the kids are being housed and the humanitarian conditions, but the reason to not visit the border is very obvious to me. This is not a border crisis. These kids are coming to the border, they are getting stopped, the border is working, Republicans are trying to turn this into a narrative of oh the border isn't working, we have a crisis. The immigration policies aren't working. These kids, this uptick in kids coming from all over the place, to all kinds of countries from Central America has been happening since long before the president started giving immigration access to younger kids.

PEREIRA: But one could argue, Sally that it isn't working. One could argue it isn't working if you have numbers that we're seeing, 60, 70, 80,000 children arriving and then being stuck in this sort of purgatory where conditions are poor.

KOHN: I'm not disagreeing there's not a crisis. But what Republicans are saying is, it's a sign the president has failed to secure the border. Well, they're not slipping through holes in the border, it's just not happening. And that is the misnomer.

DOUTHAT: But I think that everybody– don’t you think everybody understands when people talk about securing the border, they're including the system for holding deportation hearings, the system for housing refugees and so on. I think yes, obvious it's not, technically a problem with the border patrol, although it is in the sense that there's a lot of evidence that these agents who are essentially stopping these migrants and taking responsibility for them are being forced to neglect other duties, like drug interdiction dropped off during this crisis. So there are specific problems that are happening on the border, and then talking about a border crisis, I think reasonably encompasses a lot of the other difficulties we're having right now.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.