- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It appears that some adult over at the White House at last understood that even a hastily called meeting between President Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to discuss the border crisis was unavoidable, and necessary. Mr. Obama is in the Lone Star State for a trio of highfalutin Democratic fundraisers Wednesday. But their big, likely brief rendezvous and photo op did not come about without much dialogue and theater.

Scene 1: “A quick handshake on the tarmac will not allow for a thoughtful discussion regarding the humanitarian and national security crises enveloping the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas,” Mr. Perry wrote in a letter Monday to Mr. Obama.

Scene 2: “Governor Perry is pleased that President Obama has accepted his invitation to discuss the humanitarian and national security crises along our southern border, and he looks forward to meeting with the president,” Perry spokesman Travis Considine said Tuesday, confirming that Mr. Obama had authorized a change in the script.

The Big Finale: “Perry is scoring political points. Texas voters put immigration and border security at the top of their list of the most important problems facing the state,” notes a Texas Tribune analysis. “The state’s sparring partner — the federal government — has been the governor’s favorite adversary since at least 2009, a year that saw the blooming of the tea party. From a political standpoint, that puts the governor right where he likes to be — at the front of a pack of angry voters, pointing his finger at Washington, D.C.”

PERRYFIED

“If he’s going to pick Rick Perry’s brain, that’s the definition of slim pickins.”

Paul Begala’s prediction for President Obama’s aforementioned meeting with the Texas governor, to CNN.

THE HANDSHAKE NEVER FAILS

Consider that political candidates will spend an unprecedented $2.8 billion promoting their midterm campaigns this year, according to projections by Kantar Media, which tracks such things. That’s a lot of fancy advertising and attack ads, which may or may not yield victory. It may come down to some old-school reliables like handshakes and baby kissing. Like in New Hampshire, for example. The intense, early rivalry between Republican Scott Brown and incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen could be decided at state fairs, town halls, diners and other down-home spots.

“More than any other state in the nation, personal candidate interaction has been and will be a deciding factor in this U.S. Senate race. New Hampshire voters want to know and like their elected representatives. As a result, it feels like Shaheen and Brown are everywhere this summer saying hello to every voter they can find,” Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, tells Inside the Beltway.

‘CONTACT IS OFTEN BLOCKED COMPLETELY’

“Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees. This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship — an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear.

“The stifling of free expression is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring ‘a new era of openness’ to federal government — and the subsequent executive orders and directives which were supposed to bring such openness about.

“Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely.”

— From a letter to President Obama from David Cuillier, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, and representatives of 35 other press organizations.

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