U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks at a meeting of university officials in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 1, 2013.
Photo by Danny Johnston/AP

Tom Cotton’s overactive imagination

Updated
Many Republicans in competitive statewide races have found themselves with a substantive problem: they’re running out of issues to talk about.
 
GOP incumbents and challengers hoped to run against the Affordable Care Act, but with the law working extremely well, that’s no longer a credible option. They’d like to run on jobs, but the unemployment rate is dropping and Republicans don’t have a jobs plan. They probably wouldn’t mind running on social issues, but the American mainstream generally disagrees with the GOP on these hot-button issues.
 
What Republicans are left with, then, is fear – fear of immigrants, fear of diseases, fear of terrorism, and occasionally, some combination of the three. Consider what Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Arkansas, recently told voters during a tele-town-hall meeting.
“The problem is with Mark Pryor and Barack Obama refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and refusing to secure our border.  I’ll change that when I’m in the United States Senate. And I would add, it’s not just an immigration problem. We now know that it’s a security problem.  Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism.
 
“They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas. This is an urgent problem and it’s time we got serious about it, and I’ll be serious about it in the United States Senate.”
If we’re scoring based on creativity, the right-wing congressman’s concoction is quite impressive. Cotton wants voters to believe ISIS militants may come to North America, partner with Mexican drug cartels, plot terrorist strikes, and target a land-locked state in the middle of the country with no major population centers.
 
I’m honestly not sure which is more alarming: the prospect of Cotton actually believing his own nonsense or Cotton’s expectation that Americans are foolish enough to believe his ridiculous arguments.
 
Greg Sargent, who was the first to report on the Arkansas Republican’s bizarre rhetoric, explained:
I hadn’t heard this version of this claim before, so I asked the Cotton campaign for back-up. Cotton spokesman David Ray pointed me to a series of articles from conservative media, which you can read here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Versions of this claim have been debunked. The National Republican Congressional Committee is running a new ad attacking a House Democrat from Arizona for failing to secure the border by claiming: “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day. Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s back yard.” But, as Time magazine reports, federal officials have repeatedly stated that there is no active plot or operational threat that would entail ISIS infiltrating the southern border.
Of course, as we discussed two weeks ago, Cotton seems to believe American politics has entered a post-truth era, in which candidates seeking public office pay no price for making stuff up.
 
While we’re here, let’s also note that when Cotton insists the Obama administration “refuses” to work on border security, which in turn has left the border “defenseless,” the congressman simply has no idea what he’s talking about.
* In the last budget year, Border Patrol agents arrested about 420,000 people, most of them along the Mexican border. That followed a three-year trend of near record low numbers of apprehensions.
 
* Overall, the number of immigrants caught sneaking across the border remains at near historic low levels.
 
* The last time so few people were arrested at the country’s borders was 1973, when the Border Patrol recorded just fewer than 500,000 arrests.
 
* The number of people being arrested at the border remains dramatically lower than the all-time high of more than 1.6 million people in 2000.
Republicans clearly don’t want to believe this, and have gone to remarkable lengths to block this information from their minds, but Obama really has increased U.S. border security to levels unseen in modern times.

Perhaps Cotton hasn’t bothered to get his facts straight. Maybe Cotton knows he’s lying and doesn’t care. Either way, Arkansas voters deserve to know the truth before making a choice in the election.

Arkansas, ISIS and Tom Cotton

Tom Cotton's overactive imagination

Updated