NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell peppered White House spokesman Josh Earnest during Tuesday’s press briefing with questions about the border. Specifically, O’Donnell wanted to know why President Obama refuses to visit the crisis-stricken border when he visits Texas this week for fundraisers.

Earnest repeatedly calls the crisis an “emergent humanitarian situation” and an “emerging humanitarian situation.” The latter phrases, he uses so often and in such a programmed way that he ends up stumbling over them.

“Emergent” implies that it took the administration by surprise. It didn’t.

“Humanitarian” downplays the very real security threat that the porous border poses.

That’s why the administration is using those words to describe what’s happening on the border.

O’Donnell persists: What’s the downside of Obama visiting the border?

Earnest refuses to answer. At one point he plays dumb.

O’DONNELL: “Members of both parties are asking the president to visit those who reside in the border area, and clearly Governor Perry, I’m sure, will extend an invitation for him to go again. Is there a downside to the president being there personally?”

EARNEST: “Downside for being where personally?”

One possible downside is that President Obama just can’t help himself. The last time he visited the border was just over three years ago. Cartel violence was on the rise, and bullets were literally flying into El Paso from Ciudad Juarez. Against that backdrop, President Obama stood up near the border and mocked everyone who wants more security.

Three years later the security situation is worse. But Obama has two modes lately — taunt and insult. Neither will do him any good if he uses them on the border during the current situation, which he has described as a “humanitarian crisis.”