WASHINGTON — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said people should not take her attendance at a White House dinner Sunday night as a suggestion that she and President Barack Obama are now “BFFs.”
Brewer, who took heat last year when she skipped a White House dinner that was part of the National Governors Association meeting, made a point of scheduling the dinner this year.
“So now I go today and now it’s that we’re BFFs,” a laughing Brewer said Monday, using slang shorthand for “best friends forever.”
The governor’s absence from the 2012 dinner came up at the time on “Meet the Press,” when Brewer said the gathering was just “a social thing.”
“You know, I am a governor, I’ve got priorities and I will be there Monday when we all meet and … discuss policy,” she said then.
Back in Washington this weekend for the governors’ annual meeting, Brewer attended both the Sunday night dinner and a Monday luncheon at the White House with the other governors.
“Last year I had another event that had been scheduled that was very important to the economy in the state of Arizona, so I chose to go to that because I knew I was going to be with the president the next day,” Brewer said Monday. “And I got a bum rap on that, that I was being disrespectful or whatever it was.
“My planning (this year) was strategically done so that I could go attend last night and today, and I was pleased that I did,” she said Monday.
At this year’s dinner, Obama spoke for a few minutes to the assembled governors, touching on the need for the country to work together to rebuild the economy and find solutions to other challenges.
“The task before us is to find smart, common-sense solutions to each of these challenges that we can move forward on. And I’m looking for good partners,” Obama said, according to a transcript of the meeting.
He made much the same pitch at a Monday lunch with the governors. Brewer said she understood why Obama would reach out, but it would be a hard sell for Republican governors to take back to their delegations.
Bruce Merrill, senior research fellow with the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said Brewer’s attendance at this year’s White House dinner is not likely to have any significant impact politically.
He said Brewer still maintains a strong standing with the Tea Party, stemming from her confrontation with the president on a Phoenix tarmac in January 2012. The picture of her pointing her finger at the president presented an image of someone with the courage to stand up Obama, Merrill said.
“Just the fact that she went to this dinner isn’t going to change that,” he said.
Merrill said only Brewer knows if she had change of heart or if her decision to attend this year’s dinner was politically motivated.
“Without really knowing why she did it, either last year or this year, anybody can prescribe motivations to it, but nobody except her really knows,” Merrill said.
For her part, Brewer seems resigned to having her actions interpreted — or misinterpreted.
“It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s just like it goes someplace else,” she said.