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Obama, Gov. Brewer exchange tense words in Ariz.

Jan. 26, 2012 at 8:06 PM   |   Comments

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PHOENIX, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday an awkward meeting between him and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was "not a big deal."

Brewer greeted Obama in Phoenix Wednesday with a letter and what political analysts said appeared to be a piece of her mind. Observers, who could not hear what the two were saying, said the president and the governor appeared to be talking at the same time, and at one point, Brewer -- a Republican and advocate of cracking down on illegal immigrants -- pointed her index figure at Obama.

Obama apparently walked away from the governor while she was still talking. She later told reporters the president left while she was in the middle of a sentence.

In an interview with ABC News Thursday, the president said he was not "tense" during the encounter and joked that he is "usually accused of not being intense enough."

"I think it's always good publicity for a Republican if they're in an argument with me," Obama said. "But this was really not a big deal. She wanted to give me a letter, asking for a meeting. And I said, 'We'd be happy to meet.'

"Last time we met, she wasn't fully satisfied. But, you know, I think this is a classic example of things getting blown out of proportion."

Brewer said the letter was a handwritten invitation to discuss the "Arizona comeback" and to visit the Mexican border with her. She said she offered to give Obama lunch on the trip.

"He was a little disturbed about my book, 'Scorpions for Breakfast.' I said to him that I have all the respect in the world for the office of the president," Brewer said. "The book is what the book is. I asked him if he read the book. He said he read the excerpt. So."

A White House spokesman said Brewer handed the president a letter and said she was inviting him to meet with her.

"The president said he'd be glad to meet with her again, but did note that after their last meeting, a cordial discussion in the Oval Office, the governor inaccurately described the meeting in her book," the White House said. "The president looks forward to continuing taking steps to help Arizona's economy grow."

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in an interview Thursday with Fox Business Network, said Obama can be abrasive.

"Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, had a similar exchange with the president," McCain said. "It's very well-known that he has a prickly personality and I think it's been displayed in both of those cases. And I also think that Jan Brewer is very concerned about the security on our border."

Brewer's spokesman said the governor will not release a copy of the letter, which the spokesman described as "personal, handwritten." Matthew Benson said Obama has the only copy of the letter, The Arizona Republic reported.

The White House said the executive branch does not, as a rule, publicly release letters sent to the president, the newspaper reported.

Speaking with reports during a flight to Colorado, White House press secretary Jay Carney called the episode "political theater," the Los Angeles Times reported.

"I'm glad you guys are focused on the important things," he said.

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