The chattering class was quick Wednesday to label President Barack Obama’s slightly boozy Denver visit as bad optics at a time when immigration issues at the border are dominating headlines.
Obama was photographed Tuesday shaking hands with a supporter in a horse head mask and was videotaped laughing when an onlooker offered him marijuana on the street. He also was photographed drinking beer and shooting pool with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).
Over at Fox News, “America’s Newsroom” co-host Martha MacCallum and National Review editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg discussed how they thought a photo of Obama “yukking it up” in a Denver pool hall would play poorly.
“I think this is a sign that the bubble around the White House is much thicker than people think,” Goldberg said. “Obama’s always liked to cultivate this idea of the ‘no drama Obama,’ and maybe they think this shows him as an everyman kind of thing.”
“I mean, I get not wanting to go to the actual border and there’s reasons to think that that wouldn’t really be the most effective use of his time,” MacCallum conceded. “But this optics, you’re right, it just looks like the bubble is extremely thick.”
MacCallum added that the White House cites Obama’s “compassion” for undocumented immigrants at the border as the reason that his administration is taking time to come up with a solution other than simply sending unaccompanied minors back on a bus.
“None of these images are presenting that feeling on the part of the President,” she observed.
“No, in terms of PR it’s a catastrophe,” Goldberg agreed. “It’s incredibly incompetent and weird. I mean that’s the fundamental thing, is it’s just weird. These guys have not been able to get control of any story for months now.”
MacCallum’s and Goldberg’s analysis was echoed on Twitter by Fox News contributor Jedediah Bila:
Obama has time for beer, pool, and fundraising, but not a visit to the border. Pretty bad, Mr. President.
— Jedediah Bila (@JedediahBila) July 9, 2014
The National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar also cast Obama’s wild night in Denver as an “image problem:”
Image problem: Obama drinking beer, shooting pool in CO fundraising swing while refusing to visit border during TX visit.
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) July 9, 2014
Several conservative outlets, including the Washington Times and WND, made their dissatisfaction with Obama’s refusal to visit the border clear in the headlines for their stories on the Colorado trip.
“As part of a broader effort to connect with average Americans, President Obama on Tuesday night drank beer and played pool at a brewpub in downtown Denver,” read The Washington Times’ story under the headline “Beer and billiards trump a visit to the border for Obama during trip out West.”
WND cut to the chase in its headline teasing an Associated Press story on the President’s planned Wednesday visit to Texas: “Obama shoots pool while illegals flood U.S.”
Criticism came from the left as well. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), who has called the influx of migrants at the border a potential “Katrina moment” for the President, said he was “floored” when he saw photos of Obama’s night out with Hickenlooper.
“If he’s saying he’s too busy to go down to the border, but you have time to drink a beer, play pool — the optics, just the appearance means that he’s not paying attention to this humanitarian crisis,” the Texas Democrat said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” “If you ask, and I’ve talked to some of my border community leaders, they’re very, very upset that he can drink a beer, he can play pool, but he doesn’t have time to travel 242 miles from Austin down to the border or 500 miles from Dallas down there.”
“After he finishes the fundraising — and I thank him for that — but he can get on Air Force One and be down there at the border pretty quickly if he wanted to. If he wanted to,” he added. “But if he’s going to say ‘We’re not going to do it,’ he’s the President. He can decide not to go, but he really should go down there.”