Having taken a leadership role in the public debate over the border crisis, Rick Perry plans to fill the operational leadership role as well — at least symbolically. The Texas governor will activate 1,000 National Guard troops and send them in support roles to the US-Mexico border to tighten security, and to send a message about the lack of action from the federal government in the crisis:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to announce he will activate the Texas National Guard at a news conference Monday in Austin, said state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
Hinojosa did not have details of the effort, but an internal memo from another state official’s office said the governor planned to call about 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley — at a cost of about $12 million per month.
How much impact will 1,000 troops have? Certainly it will increase the intimidation factor, providing perhaps more of a deterrent than currently in play in this crisis. However, the memo stresses that the troops will be used for support missions, and not provide a “militarization” of the border. Primarily, Perry wants to augment Border Patrol efforts to stop human and other smuggling, as well as make a statement about the extent of the problems Texans face in the border areas.
Hinojosa isn’t a big fan of the idea, which is probably why he leaked it ahead of Perry’s planned announcement:
Hinojosa said the National Guard was not equipped to aid immigrants crossing the Rio Grande.
“They (cartels) are taking advantage of the situation,” he said. “But our local law enforcement from the sheriff’s offices of the different counties to the different police departments are taking care of the situation. This is a civil matter, not a military matter. What we need is more resources to hire more deputies, hire more Border Patrol.
“These are young people, just families coming across. They’re not armed. They’re not carrying weapons.”
Well, someone is, and not just cheap handguns either. The Border Patrol found itself under fire on Friday night from what they think were.50-caliber weapons, not exactly light arms. The fire appears to have been an attempt to suppress border security actions while smugglers brought their human cargo to the north side of the Rio Grande, according to Fox (via Katie Pavlich):
U.S. Border Patrol agents on the American side of the Rio Grande were forced to take cover Friday night when high-caliber weaponry was fired at them from the Mexican side of the river, sources told FoxNews.com.
The weapons were fired at the U.S. side of the riverbank in the area of the Rincon Peninsula across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico, at about 8:30 p.m., sources said. Bullets ricocheted into an area where Border Patrol agents were positioned, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told FoxNews.com.
Border Patrol sources confirmed Gohmert’s account, and said the shots may have been fired by .50-caliber weapons.
“We don’t have any armor that can stop a .50-caliber round, so our Border Patrol agents had to take cover when the rounds were richocheting around them,” said Gohmert, who has been in the area for the last week to get a first-hand look at the border situation.
“When the shooting stopped, about 40 to 50 people came out on the U.S. side and turned themselves in. So clearly the rounds were being fired to suppress every effort to stop anybody intervening with anyone or anything coming across,” Gohmert added. “We have no idea what or how many or whom came across with the other illegal immigrants.”
Sources said they believe the gunfire came from members of Mexican drug cartels, which include former military members trained in shooting that type of weaponry.
That would be a problem that the National Guard could address, certainly, if this incident has been verified — if the federal government won’t react to it. The Border Patrol has been complaining about escalating tensions across the border for quite a while, so it’s not as if the White House has lacked opportunities to demonstrate action. In the absence of leadership, the Obama administration is giving Rick Perry plenty of opportunity to raise his profile, and the profile of the border crisis.
Ron Fournier wonders what the White House is thinking with its “business as usual” messaging in the middle of these crises, albeit in the context of two other crises:
President Obama’s decision to stick with his schedule of fundraisers and photo opportunities amid twin foreign policy crises elicited one of the most disconnected and disingenuous statements you’ll ever see from a White House. …
This points to the fundamental problem with Obama’s communications ethos: He and his advisers are so certain about their moral and political standing that they believe it’s enough to make a declaration. If we say it, the public should believe it.
That’s not how it works. A president must earn the public’s trust. He must teach and persuade; speak clearly, and follow word with action; show empathy toward his rivals, and acknowledge the merits of a critique. A successful president pays careful attention to how his image is projected both to U.S. voters and to the people of the world. He knows that to be strong, a leader must look strong. Image matters, especially in an era so dominated by them.
In the story that quoted Palmieri, New York Times journalist Michael D. Shear reported that White House aides “gave no consideration to abandoning the president’s long-planned schedule” Thursday. No consideration, really? Is this White House so stubborn and out of touch that presidential advisers didn’t even consider tweaking his schedule? Unless the White House lied to Shear, the answer is yes.
There is much to be said about presenting a calm, steady, and phlegmatic front. It’s another thing entirely to go out for a Cheeseburger In Paradise while pretending nothing out of the ordinary was happening. One demonstrates leadership, and the other its opposite. That sucking sound at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the leadership vacuum at full bore.