During his brief stop in Arizona to sell his plan for boosting the nation’s manufacturing base, President Obama delighted in the balmy Arizona weather, but he probably wasn’t expecting a hot-tempered exchange with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer right after Air Force One touched down in Phoenix.
Mrs. Brewer greeted the president on the tarmac and the two engaged in a testy encounter witnessed by reporters. At one point, she wagged a finger at him, and in another, they were talking at the same time, seemingly over each other, according to one reporter’s White House pool account. He then appeared to walk away while she was still talking, and later she said the president didn’t let her finish her sentence.
According to a White House account of the brief, tense meeting, the governor handed the president a letter and said she was inviting him to meet with her. Mr. Obama said he’d be glad to meet with her again, but asserted that after their last meeting, a cordial discussion in the Oval Office in 2010, the governor inaccurately described the meeting in her book “Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America’s Border.” which was released in November.
“The president looks forward to continuing taking steps to help Arizona’s economy grow,” a White House spokesman told the reporter in a written statement.
Speaking to reporters after Mr. Obama walked away, Mrs. Brewer appeared a bit flustered and taken aback by the conversation.
“I said to him that I have all the respect in the world for the office of the president,” Brewer said. “The book is what the book is. I asked him if he read the book. He said he read the excerpt. So.”
Mrs. Brewer said the president told her “that he didn’t feel I had treated him cordially.”
“I said I was sorry he felt that way but I didn’t get my sentence finished,” she said. “Anyway, we’re glad he’s here. I’ll regroup.”
In her book, Mrs. Brewer called the president’s attacks on her bill “a Democratic vote-getting scheme” and said the president was patronizing in their Oval Office meeting in 2010.
The last time the two met was in June 2010, when the Arizona governor visited the Oval Office for a private, closed-door discussion, which the White House called a “good meeting” afterward.
In 2010 Brewer signed a controversial immigration bill into law that requires state law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of someone they’ve stopped, detained or arrested if there is “reasonable suspicion” the individual is in the country illegally.
Civil rights groups have attacked the law as discriminatory and Mr. Obama has called it ”misguided” and his administration has fought to have it overturned by the courts. He and Mrs. Brewer have had a rocky relationship ever since.
In her book, she said the hardest part about her fight for the immigration law, was being accused of racism by the liberal media and those who sought to advance their own interests by demonizing her – including the Obama administration.
During Wednesday’s brief spat, Mrs. Brewer handed Obama a handwritten letter asking him to sit down with her to discuss the “Arizona comeback.”
“I thought we probably would’ve talked about the things that were important to him and important to me, helping one another,” Mrs. Brewer said of a potential meeting with the president. “Our country is upside down. Arizona was upside down. But we have turned it around. I know again that he loves this country and I love this country.”
Mrs. Brewer also clashed with the president in October when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit she filed accusing the administration of failing to enforce immigration laws or control the state’s border with Mexico.
Later Wednesday evening, the governor released a statement, which appeared to gloss over the incident, saying she “welcomed” the president to Arizona and the two spent a few moments discussing the state’s economic turnaround.
She then devoted six paragraphs to describing how “starkly different” her vision of fixing the economy and getting America back on track is when compared with the president’s.
“I’m convinced the path the President has pursued is the wrong one,” she concludes. “I hope he takes some of the lessons of Arizona back with him to Washington.”