After an El Paso stop that focused on immigration reform, President Barack Obama used his second stop, in Austin, to talk politics with a sea of fellow Democrats and raise money for his upcoming re-election campaign.
“We’ve still got some climbing to do, so don’t take off your boots,” Obama said. “It’s going to take more than one term to get there.”
Knowing he was speaking before a friendly crowd, the president outlined his favorite achievements since entering office. This included references to saving the auto industry, ensuring equal pay for women, appointing two females to the Supreme Court, repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, investing in clean energy and finding Osama bin Laden. A member of the audience beat Obama to that last item, yelling out, “Thanks for killing bin Laden!”
Obama also reiterated the need to “free our grip from foreign oil” and to pass comprehensive immigration reform before asking the audience for its support in his re-election efforts.
Obama delivered about 25 minutes worth of remarks before several hundred supporters at the Moody Theater in downtown Austin. Most members of the crowd paid $1,000 for admission to the event, which created massive gridlock near the venue and at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. While the audience was waiting, musician Robert Earl Keen played some songs.
The president’s tone seemed a bit more cheerful and relaxed than what media outlets reported from his earlier visit to the border. Before landing in Austin, Obama was greeted by lawmakers and University of Texas at El Paso students at the Chamizal National Memorial, a national park in El Paso a stone’s throw away from Ciudad Juárez. There, according to The Associated Press, he pounced at Republicans who accuse him and his administration of failing to secure the nation’s borders. Many GOP lawmakers have said there would be no move on immigration reform.
"We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement," he said, according to AP. "But even though we've answered these concerns, I gotta say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time."
In Austin, immigration reform was just one item on a list of goals Obama seeks to accomplish if he gets a second term. And he urged patience from supporters.
“We need to confront the challenge of immigration and pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. Then later: “We are all together … whether your ancestors landed on Ellis Island, came over on a slave ship or crossed the Rio Grande."
The president casually noted some of his supporters may have been losing patience and simply joked: “I know. I know."
“I want you to think about all the progress we’ve made already,” he said, and asked supporters to remember the "Yes, we can" mantra from his 2008 campaign.
Texas offers a more hostile political atmosphere outside of the Moody Theater. In a statement issued even before Obama landed in El Paso, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, tore at the administration's immigration policies.
“It’s disappointing that the only time border security and immigration reform get President Obama’s attention is when he is campaigning," Cornyn said in a press release. "The bottom line is that nothing President Obama says, or where he says it, can change the fact that he failed to deliver on his promise to make immigration reform a priority during his first year in office."
Tomorrow, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, plans to call a hearing on border security; he issued a statement in advance condemning the administration’s efforts to secure the border.
“This administration is not giving the American people a complete picture of security on our border with Mexico," McCaul said. "It is not ‘better now than it has ever been’ and the data on spillover crimes and violence is deceiving and underreported. Our state and local law enforcement on the front lines need help.”