Is every Obama visit a photo-op?

President Obama didn’t visit the U.S.-Mexico border on his trip to Texas this week because he said a “photo-op” would not solve the immigration crisis.

This is undoubtedly true. It wouldn’t. But would a “photo-op” create jobs, fix bridges, clean-up the Gulf after the BP oil spill, rebuild the Jersey Shore after a hurricane, stabilize the Korean peninsula?

Whenever the president travels anywhere, whether he’s visiting the site of a tragedy, making a policy point, or guzzling a beer while shooting pool, photos will be taken. That’s inevitable. So to call a stop at the border a “photo-op” by definition means that every other time he’s visited somewhere was also a “photo-op.”

We’re not talking here about jaunts to local eateries, sports games or events with celebrities. A lot of Obama’s visits to places deal with very serious issues.

In September 2011, with the economy still struggling to recover, Obama gave a speech in front of the aging Brent Spence Bridge on the Ohio River to make the case for creating jobs and rebuilding our infrastructure.


File: President Obama speaks to a crowd in front of the Brent Spence Bridge on September 22, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

In April 2010, the President went down to Louisiana to survey the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


File: Obama meets with Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, the administration’s point person on the crisis, and Jindal aboard Marine One as they fly along the coastline from Venice, La., to New Orleans. (Credit: AP/Pete Souza)

In May 2012, Obama took a quick trip over to Afghanistan on the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. While there he signed a strategic pact on the U.S. role in Afghanistan after troops are gone.


File: Afghan President Hamid Karzai (R) and President Obama arrive to sign a strategic partnership agreement on May 1, 2012 at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages)

In October 2012, Obama visited the devastated Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy.


File: President Obama hugs North Point Marina owner Donna Vanzant as he tours damage done by Hurricane Sandy in Brigantine, New Jersey, October 31, 2012. (Reuters/LARRY DOWNING)

In June 2012, Obama went to Colorado to see the areas ravaged by wildfires.


File: President Obama meets fire fighters while touring the Mountain Shadow neighborhood which was burned by wildfires about 72 hours ago on June 29, 2012 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

In March 2012, Obama visited the tense border between North and South Korea.


File: PresidentObama, with North Korea behind him in the distance, holds binoculars as he looks out from Observation Post Ouellette during a visit to the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) near Panmunjom on the border between North Korea and South Korea, March 25, 2012. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)

The controversy over Obama’s decision not to visit the border is, like most things, largely political. The president said Wednesday he doesn’t think a trip there would add anything beyond the thorough briefings he’s received from administration officials who have visited the border.

It could also be bad optics for the president to tour shelters full of children he has vowed to deport as he struggles to balance that stance with pressure from immigration advocates seeking more humane laws.

Still, as our friend Aaron Blake over at The Fix blog points out, there are probably less downsides to the president doing “photo-ops” …  otherwise known as visiting.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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Colby Itkowitz | July 10