Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) has become the face of Democratic opposition to President Barack Obama’s lackadaisical approach to the crisis on the southern border. All this week, Cuellar has suggested that the president should, while visiting Texas today and tomorrow, take a break from his fundraising schedule to see the crisis with his own eyes. On Tuesday, he humbly beseeched the president to come to the border. It seems Cuellar has finally lost his patience.
In a display of contempt for the press, his party, and anyone else demanding Obama observe good “optics” by visiting the border, the president allowed himself to be filmed last night enjoying a beer and playing billiards with Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. This was the final straw for Cuellar.
“He can drink a beer, he can play pool but he can’t go 240 miles to visit the border?” Cuellar remarked in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“It just really floored me,” he continued. “The appearance means that he’s not paying attention to this humanitarian crisis.”
And MSNBC did not lift a finger to protect the president. While a member of Obama’s party was calling him “aloof” and “detached,” they featured a split screen image of the president dismissively entertaining himself in a bar.
How about them “optics?”
Minutes later, Mitchell invited Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, on her program to defend the president. It was brutal.
“With all due respect, the reality on the ground is that the administration did not stay ahead of this,” Mitchell observed. “The impression – the reality is – that the White House has been slow to react.” She noted that “optics” is a stand-in phrase synonymous with leadership, and implied that Obama had declined to display any.
“Leadership does involve showing the concern,” Mitchell later added after playing a portion of Cuellar’s veritable denunciation of Obama.
“So far, the politics aren’t working and the substance isn’t working,” she concluded. “Somebody’s got to revisit this.”
Muñoz’s responses were canned and unconvincing. She is doing her best to clean up her boss’s mess, even while he is still making it. She did nothing to satisfy a visibly unsettled Mitchell.
This is what a crisis of confidence looks like. This is what an imploding presidency looks like.