Why do GOP leaders keep complaining about fentanyl seizures?

Republicans keep complaining about the Biden administration stopping illegal fentanyl shipments at the border. It's getting a little weird.


Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, published a tweet this morning, alerting the public to some developments along the U.S./Mexico border:

"899 lbs of fentanyl and 15,631 lbs of methamphetamine were seized at the southern border in October alone. That much fentanyl is the equivalent of 204 MILLION lethal doses. We need border security!"

Of course, part of the problem is that the third sentence doesn't quite match the first: If all of these illegal drugs were seized at the border, then we clearly already have quite a bit of border security.

But circling back to our earlier coverage, what's especially odd about this is how often Republicans push this message, seemingly indifferent to its implications.

In July, for example, Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona complained via Twitter, "Under Joe Biden, enough fentanyl to kill 238 million Americans was seized at the southern border last month. Where's the outrage in the media?"

It was hard not to wonder whether the congressman — the outgoing chair of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus — had thought this through. Why would anyone in the United States, other than drug dealers, complain about officials seizing fentanyl at the border? Biggs asked about the missing outrage, leading to the obvious question as to why anyone would be outraged that U.S. officials had successfully done their jobs.

But he wasn't alone. In recent months, a variety of other congressional Republicans — South Carolina's Ralph Norman, Texas' Brian Babin, Texas' Beth Van Duyne, Texas' August Pfluger — have all criticized the Biden administration over fentanyl shipments seized at the border.

A few weeks ago, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa joined them, highlighting fentanyl shipments that have been seized by Customs and Border Patrol. "Welcome to President Biden's America," the GOP senator wrote in a tweet.

As the RNC's McDaniel joins the parade, the rhetorical push is increasingly peculiar.

As we've discussed, criminals have tried to smuggle illegal drugs into the United States for many years. It's happened during Republican administrations; it's happened during Democratic administrations. Criminals have focused their efforts on the southern border, the northern border, ports, and even airports. The United States' system of defense is far from perfect, but a dedicated group of professionals do their best to stop the shipments before they reach American streets.

That is, of course, what most Americans — again, excluding drug dealers — want them to do.

For Republicans to criticize the seizures is a little weird. In fact, common sense suggests GOP officials should focus attention elsewhere, since the seizures disprove one of the party's favorite talking points: If the president had implemented an "open-border" policy, as the right routinely claims, U.S. Customs and Border Protection wouldn't have stopped these shipments before they entered the country.

If GOP officials want to argue that the shipments represent only a fraction of a larger whole, and that there are other shipments that border officials aren't catching, they're certainly welcome to make that case and present the evidence, to the extent that it's available.

But that's not what Republicans are saying. Instead, they keep complaining about U.S. successes, which should be a tough sell from a public-relations perspective.

White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates recently asked via Twitter, "Wait, Republicans are now attacking us for stopping fentanyl trafficking?" It's hardly an unreasonable question given the circumstances.