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Finger in the First Face: disrespectful, or Arizona politics as usual?

An Associated Press photographer captures Gov Jan Brewer pointing a finger at the president Photo: Image by Associated Press

Finger in the First Face: disrespectful, or Arizona politics as usual?

CREATED Jan. 25, 2012 - UPDATED: Jan. 26, 2012

Reporter:  Jessica Chapin
Web Producers: Brian Pryor and Forrest Carr

MESA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV/AP) - The Arizona Democratic Party is now demanding a public apology from the state's governor, after she was caught on camera with her finger in the president's face.

Their release Thursday called her actions "an embarrassment," and "disrespectful."  Pima County Democratic Party chair Jeff Rogers says he agrees.

"My immediate reaction was there she has gone and embarrassed Arizona again," he said, "being it was discourteous, undignified, it just showed an unbelievable lack of respect."

On Wednesday an Associated Press photographer snapped a picture of Brewer exchanging words moments after the president stepped off of Air Force One for a Phoenix-area visit.   The two leaders could be seen engaged in an intense conversation at the base of the plane's stteps. Both could be seen smiling, but speaking at the same time.

The AP photograph shows the governor pointing her finger at Mr. Obama -- a gesture that would fall outside the bounds of commonly accepted protocol for greeting and addressing the president of the United States.  According to the Associated Press, Brewer said afterwards that she talks with her hands and meant no disrespect -- but added that the president showed her disrespect by walking off in mid-conversation.

Asked moments later what the conversation was about, Brewer, said:  "He was a little disturbed about my book."

Brewer recently published a book, "Scorpions for Breakfast," which is a memoir of her years growing up and defends her signing of Arizona's controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants, which Obama opposes.

According to the governor, the president objected to Brewer's description of a meeting he and Brewer had at the White House, where she described Obama as lecturing her. In an interview in November Brewer described two tense meetings. The first took place before his commencement address at Arizona State University. "He did blow me off at ASU," she said in the television interview in November.

She also described meeting the president at the White House in 2010 to talk about immigration.

"I felt a little bit like I was being lectured to, and I was a little kid in a classroom, if you will, and he was this wise professor and I was this little kid, and this little kid knows what the problem is and I felt minimized to say the least."

Early Thursday afternoon, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell issued a statement blasting Governor Brewer for her choice of gesture.  "She chose to put partisan bickering over civility and respect," Campbell wrote.  "This is an all-too-common occurrence at Arizona’s capitol.  Disagreement is part of a democracy, but disrespect is not."

Republican State Senator Frank Antenori said the gesture was understandable.

"Everybody calls for civility but when you have people with two different passionate points of view," he said, "I don't see anything wrong with that."

On the tarmac Wednesday, Brewer handed Mr. Obama an envelope with what she described as a  handwritten invitation to return to Arizona to meet her for lunch and to join her for a visit to the border.

What, exactly, was in the handwritten note that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer handed to President Barack Obama Wednesday afternoon?  The Arizona Republic now reports that the governor will not be releasing a copy of the note.   The newspaper's web site quoted a spokesman as saying that President Obama has the only copy.

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