Politico, July 17, 2014
By Anna Palmer
They couldn’t be further apart in their politics but Glenn Beck, Rick Perry and Jose Antonio Vargas are all doing the same thing: sharing the spotlight with the border crisis.
Beck is bringing teddy bears to immigrant kids.
Vargas got himself detained on a visit.
And Perry is resurrecting his national political career by picking a fight with President Barack Obama.
Pundits, politicians and activists from across the spectrum all agree: Never waste a crisis.
“Opportunism is the best friend of the desperate. These guys don’t want to solve the problem, they want attention — and donors,” said veteran GOP strategist Terry Holt.
Several political communications and political strategists said it’s classic politics for politicians and activists to try to use a crisis for their own benefit.
It’s long been how Washington, and the supporting cast of media and activists, operate. When something heats up, so do they — whether it’s a government shutdown, a school shooting or a foreign policy crisis.
The political machine typically moves into action with operatives looking to cash in on fundraising, start petitions to entice new people to sign up for their lists or to hammer the opposite political party.
“You can motivate your base to fund-raise and then you need a hot interview or TV clip to highlight the fact that the current leadership of the House is failing to get anything passed,” said veteran Democratic strategist Michael Meehan of Venn Squared.
The government shutdown late last year provided tea party conservatives an opportunity to boost their brand and fundraising base.
“Ted Cruz is the poster boy for using a crisis with the government shutdown to further his political agenda and ambitions,” said Democratic strategist Doug Thornell.
But some see the border crisis as one that can’t afford typical political distractions.
“Today, there was a story about a dead boy’s body floating in the river. That is what I care about. That is what I think the majority of Americans care about,” said Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum. “I don’t think the debate, much less these children can afford distractions.”
Public relations veteran Peter Mirijanian also said that while crises can often lead people to put down their political agendas to reach a compromise, it’s unlikely it will happen in this case.
“I don’t think anybody is really interested in forging a solution,” Mirijanian said. “Compromise has been a dirty word here for the last eight years. So that’s the difference in that people are using the crisis to position themselves and for posturing. It’s the sad reality.”
On the specifics, Beck, Perry and Vargas would all say they care deeply about the issue.
But they are also drawing attention to themselves in the process.
Beck, who ran a translation of his show in Spanish Tuesday, will join other stalwart conservatives on the border in Texas to deliver food, water and toys to undocumented children.
He said he has “never taken a position more deadly to my career than this.”
Though he publicly said he fears a backlash, he is being joined by one of the most conservative members of Congress, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
A Beck spokesman declined to comment.
Perry, meanwhile, used the border crisis to get himself back into the national conversation after he threatened not to shake Obama’s hand, a flap that turned into its own story.
The outgoing Texas governor, who is still considering a 2016 presidential run, has also leaned on the border to reaffirm his conservative credentials. And, his supporters would say, he is a border-state governor — making this a relevant issue for him to discuss.
“It’s given him a voice nationally and a platform to talk about this issue,” said Dave Carney, a veteran Perry political adviser, who no longer works for him. “But he’s not saying something he hasn’t been talking about for 12 years.”
Vargas, who trekked down to McAllen, Texas, was detained Tuesday morning at an airport checkpoint and later released. He came to the city last week to hold a news conference and vigil put together by an immigrant youth-led organization United We Dream.
But before he left, he penned an article for POLITICO Magazine saying he feared being detained at a checkpoint.
Vargas also has defenders.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has thrown his support behind Vargas, putting out a statement that he “stand[s] in solidarity with journalist and advocate Jose Antonio Vargas — an exemplary man whose tireless work has helped raise awareness around the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living on American soil.”
Longtime pro-immigration reform supporter Frank Sharry said Vargas “didn’t go down there to get arrested” and that he was trying to highlight the human factor of the border crisis.
“He didn’t know that he would be in a situation where it would be difficult for him to get out,” said Sharry, who knows Vargas personally.
Read full article: Politico, July 17, 2014