Gov. Jan Brewer calls Obama ‘thin-skinned’ after tarmac encounter: Did she go too far?

January 26, 2012

President Obama visited Arizona on Wednesday on his post-State of the Union tour, and on the tarmac in Phoenix was met by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. News cameras picked up what seemed to be a tense conversation between the two, including Brewer pointing her finger at Obama. As David Nakamura reported:

The unusual confrontation--which included Brewer pointing her finger at Obama, and Obama walking away--centered on Brewer’s newly published account of a meeting she and Obama had at the White House in June, 2010, officials said.

Obama descended the stairs of Air Force One and was greeted by Brewer, who was waiting for him along with other politicians in a traditional receiving line. Brewer offered Obama a letter, which she later said was an invitation to sit down with her to discuss Arizona’s economic “comeback” and to join her for a tour of the U.S.-Mexican border.

The president told Brewer he would be happy to meet with her, a White House aide said, but also informed the governor that he thought she had been inaccurate in describing their earlier session in the Oval Office.

Brewer’s book, “Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure the Border,’’ details her conservative approach to dealing with the state’s illegal immigration challenges. A review published in the Arizona Republic said that Brewer casts Obama as “condescending” and skewers him repeatedly. Although she originally described their Oval Office meeting as cordial, the newspaper said, “in the book she calls the president ‘patronizing’ and said ‘he lectured me.’ ”
“He didn’t feel that I had treated him cordially” in the book, Brewer told reporters Wednesday. “I said to him that I have all the respect in the world for the office of the president. The book is what the book is. I asked him if he read the book. He said he read the excerpt.”

In an excerpt available on Amazon, Brewer defends Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 immigration law that she signed into law in 2010, but whose toughest provisions were overturned by a federal judge.

Brewer writes that Obama “has repeatedly made fun of those of us who want to see the law enforced, saying we want a ‘moat’ with ‘alligators’ in it around our country. The reason he has resorted to these failed attempts at humor, I think, is that he supports a policy that is fundamentally undemocratic, and he knows it.”

On Thursday, Brewer told reporters she thought Obama was “thin-skinned” about their disagreements over her book and policy differences. As David Nakamura explained:

Making the media rounds after tangling with Obama over her criticisms of him in her recent book on immigration, Brewer described the president as wound-up from the moment she greeted him on the tarmac.

“He brought up my book and he was a little tense,” Brewer said in an interview with KFYI radio. “He said he read the excerpt and didn’t think I was very cordial. I said we’d have to agree to disagree. He was a little thin-skinned and tense, to say the least.”

In her radio interview, Brewer described herself as calm during the conversation with the president, and expressed surprise at the photograph of her wagging a finger in Obama’s face, which has gone viral since the encounter.

“The picture is very interesting. I don’t remember doing that,” she told the radio station.

This confrontation between Brewer and Obama follows a history of disagreements between the two, especially over immigration policy. As AP reported :

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says she meant no disrespect when she pointed a finger at President Barack Obama during an intense discussion on an airport tarmac. But the Republican governor says the Democratic president showed disrespect for her by abruptly ending their conversation.

The brief encounter — out of earshot of observers but captured on camera — was a highly visible demonstration of the verbal and legal skirmishing that has regularly occurred between Brewer and Obama’s administration over illegal immigration and other issues.

Brewer is among the Republican governors who oppose the federal health care overhaul, but the illegal immigration issue has been a particular sore point between Obama and Brewer.

The U.S. Justice Department has challenged Arizona’s controversial 2010 immigration enforcement law in court, while the administration and Brewer are at odds over whether the federal government has done enough to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Thursday, Brewer drew support from callers to conservative-oriented talk shows, but the incident left others in the state shaking their heads.

The Arizona Republic, the state’s largest newspaper, editorialized that the image of Brewer wagging a scolding finger at the visiting president “now pretty much defines this state’s relationship with Washington, D.C., to the world.”

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