White House attempts to walk back President Biden's use of 'crisis' to describe border situation

Yesterday, Jazz wrote about President Biden’s sudden shift in language during an impromptu conversation with reporters. Here’s the video of Biden’s answer to a question about refugee caps. “The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people. We couldn’t do two things at once,” Biden said. Here’s video of the statement:

That caught a lot of people’s attention and not just those on the right. Here’s an ABC News report from yesterday noting that Biden had called the situation a crisis for the first time:

But today the White House is doing its best to walk that comment back and offering some interesting spin on Biden’s statement:

The President’s use of the “crisis” label doesn’t represent the administration’s official position, the White House said Monday in regard to a term that top administration officials have refused to say as the numbers of migrants surged…

“No, there is no change in position. Children coming to our border seeking refuge from violence, economic hardships and other dire circumstances is not a crisis,” a White House official told CNN.

The official said that Biden “was referring to the crisis in Central America — the dire circumstances so many are fleeing from. He was not referring to the Federal Government’s response.”

Granted the situation in Central America is arguably a crisis but that’s clearly not what Biden was referring to over the weekend. Again, he specifically said, “the crisis that ended up on the border with young people.” He’s not talking about something happening there, he’s talking about what’s happening here at the border with unaccompanied minors. In fact, his comment was a claim that the U.S. government is simply overtaxed at this moment which is why refugee caps couldn’t be raised. But obviously a crisis happening 1,000 miles away isn’t directly putting a strain on our system. It’s the border crisis that is doing that.

Perhaps realizing that this spin made no sense, Press Secretary Jen Psaki offered a slightly different version later in the day. “The President does not feel that children coming to our border seeking refuge from violence, economic hardships, and other dire circumstances is a crisis. He does feel that the crisis in Central America — the dire circumstances that many are fleeing from — that that is a situation we need to spend our time or effort on…”

Notice the slight difference from the earlier walk back. Psaki isn’t actually claiming that Biden was referring to the crisis in Central America. She implies that but doesn’t say it. Instead she’s simply stating that he does not believe the border situation is a crisis (regardless of what he actually said).

The White House has been playing this game since February when it first became clear this was going to be a problem. Somehow they seem to believe that referring to this as a challenge rather than a crisis will help their PR strategy. Meanwhile, the situation is clearly a disaster, with thousands of kids staying in border patrol facilities beyond the 72 hours allowed by law and thousands more moving into temporary shelters at convention centers. The fact that the president himself can’t keep this spin straight is a pretty good indication no one really believes the word games the White House is playing.