Pubdate: Wed, 01 Sep 2010
Source: El Paso Times (TX)
Copyright: 2010 El Paso Times
Author: Marty Schladen


President Barack Obama flew to Fort Bliss on Tuesday to talk to troops
about the next phase of the Iraq war, but escalating violence across
the border crept into the president's itinerary, Mayor John Cook said.

Cook welcomed Obama, but had very limited interaction with

But U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Democrat, spent 3 1/2 hours on Air
Force One with the president.

"The congressman told me they had a very substantial discussion about
the violence in Mexico," Cook said.

The president wants to help Mexican President Felipe Calderon
establish some control over the drug cartels in Calderon's remaining
two years in office, Cook said. If that does not happen, the cartels
will be stronger than ever, Cook said.

During a meeting Monday in preparation for the visit, a presidential
aide told Cook that he would arrange a one-on-one meeting with Obama
to discuss violence across the border.

But once at Fort Bliss, Obama was all about the soldiers, Cook

"Every soldier who was in the room, he shook his hand," the mayor
said. "Some of them got more face time than I did, which is

Obama also met one-on-one with some wives of soldiers killed in Iraq,
and Cook said he spoke with one wife who was pleased with the
attention she got from the president.

Because of 250,000 soldiers deploying from Fort Bliss to Iraq and 51
dying there, the mayor said, it was fitting for the president to pick
the post to announce a major new phase in the Iraq war.

Despite his limited contact with the president, Cook found time to
give him a jar of the barbecue sauce the mayor makes and sells for

"He said seeing that he was from Chicago, he would definitely try it,"
Cook said. "But I'm not holding my breath." 
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