THE BIG CONVERSATION:
President Barack Obama's in Texas again today, but this time he's all business — or, rather, no business.
Obama visited Texas earlier this month on official political dealings, making quick fundraising treks through Austin and Dallas for Senate Democrats. But today, dropping into El Paso before heading back to D.C. to deliver a televised address tonight on the end of combat operations in Iraq, Obama will spend the morning thanking soldiers at Fort Bliss for their service.
The president, who has denied a meeting with Gov. Rick Perry this visit, appears to have brushed aside calls that he use the opportunity to address the state's immigration and border security issues, which critics, including Perry and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, have accused him of ignoring. "If the president is truly concerned with securing our border — and not just a photo op — he will, at the very least, schedule a meeting with local law enforcement during his El Paso visit to show solidarity," Cornyn recently said in a statement.
Obama's visit, in fact, comes during a big week for border news. On Wednesday, an unmanned drone will begin air patrol to assist agents on the ground. And as the Tribune's Julian Aguilar reported Monday night, Mexican authorities have detained big-time cartel leader Edgar Valdez Villarreal.
The White House has said Obama isn't scheduled to address any political concerns. Still, some say they'd like the opportunity while the president is available. "If I had more time I'd certainly like to discuss [with him] the need for a holistic comprehensive immigration reform plan," Democratic El Paso Mayor John Cook tells the El Paso Times. "I'd also like to talk to him about issues concerning border security and trade with Mexico."
- U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the longtime Dallas congresswoman reported Monday to have awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to family members and an aide's children since 2005, has said she'll repay the funds by the end of the week. "While I am not ashamed of helping, I did not intentionally mean to violate any rules in the process," she said in a statement Monday night. Meanwhile, Stephen Broden, a pastor and Tea Party Republican, appeared on a conservative radio talk show in Dallas to blast the nine-term incumbent, whom he's challenging for the seat in November. "Eighteen years in office breeds corruption," he said.
- State Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, has announced that he will retire, effective today. The 20-year House veteran, who told the Amarillo Globe-Newsi that he's now looking into lobbying or consulting, asked Gov. Rick Perry last week to hold a special election to fill his seat. Perry has since said no.
- U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert knows how to bring the house down, apparently. The Tyler congressman, of "terrorist babies" fame, didn't take part in Fox News firebrand Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in D.C. this weekend, but he joined fellow Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., at a town hall event afterward, proving so popular that Bachmann invited him back on stage for an encore speech. Talk of babies, though, The Texas Independent reports, was nowhere to be found.
"[Barack Obama's] malfeasance in office has been so striking to the American people [that] there's no way he'll be re-elected." — Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey in an interview with the Tribune's Ross Ramsey
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