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Washington • Partisanship may rule in Washington these days but governors from across the country emerged from the White House on Monday to tout their ability to work together to address the nation's problems regardless of party.
"The goals that we have really are the same. We sometimes differ on process as far as how to achieve those goals," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said outside the West Wing after meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. "The best part of the dialogue we had here today, as we talked about a number of issues, the common theme for most of us governors is, the states have a role to play as what we refer to as the laboratories of democracy."
The theme of bipartisan cooperation was also highlighted by Obama during a Sunday dinner with the governors.
"Within this room, we're not going to agree on everything. But I am committed to working with each and every one of you over the next two years to keep making progress," the president said.
Herbert said he asked Obama for help in pushing for reauthorization of the education law known as No Child Left Behind to give states flexibility in how they use federal dollars, a point Herbert said the president was receptive to.
And Herbert, vice chairman of the National Governors Association, stressed again the need for comprehensive immigration reform that's been languishing on Capitol Hill for years. President Barack Obama had moved to allow legal residency for an estimated five million undocumented immigrants but a federal judge has blocked that as a result of a lawsuit filed by 26 Republican-led states, including Utah.
"I hope we don't freeze ourselves in inaction," Herbert said, adding: "Let's look for a permanent solution, let's not look for a limited solution."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat and chairman of the NGA, noted that Obama had given a "robust defense" of his immigration policies and that the country needed to deal with the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally who aren't going to pack up and leave.
"I think all of us governors want to see a comprehensive solution," Hickenlooper said. "We may disagree about details, but everyone recognizes the time has come that immigration needs to be solved now."
While the governors attempted to keep their news conference at the White House bipartisan, reporters asked Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal if he backed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's remarks that Obama didn't love America.
Jindal seized the moment yards from the Oval Office, saying he disagreed with Giuliani's phrasing but questioned Obama's efforts to combat Islamic jihadists.
"The president has really disqualified himself to be our commander-in-chief," Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said. "There are many of us that are very concerned about the president's unwillingness to call out radical Islamic terrorism and the threat that we face as a country."
In remarks Monday, Obama steered clear of such criticism, instead focusing on what the governors and the federal government could do to help Americans.
Herbert joked earlier in the weekend about the looming presidential campaign. The Utahn said there was a reason he was elected vice chairman and would head the National Governors Association next year.
"The answer is simple I am the only governor who is not running for president," Herbert said.