It’s difficult to say who was the first Republican to complain about the Biden administration successfully stopping illicit drugs at the border, though Rep. Andy Biggs was among the first. It was in July 2021 when the Arizona Republican 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?”
Even at the time, it was an odd criticism. The Biden administration was seizing drugs before they reached the United States. It would make sense for drug dealers to be “outraged,” but it wasn’t altogether clear why Biggs saw this as controversial.
Nevertheless, in the months that followed, this became an oddly common criticism of President Joe Biden and his team. Every couple of months, from the Republican National Committee to the halls of Congress to the presidential campaign trail, the more the administration seized drugs, the more Republicans complained for reasons that weren’t altogether clear.
Yesterday, Republican Rep. Pat Fallon of Texas joined the GOP chorus with a tweet that read in part:
“[Fiscal year 2022] saw OVER 14,000 [pounds] of fentanyl seized at our southern border. What is Joe Biden doing about it?”
The White House’s Ian Sams responded soon after, “What is Joe Biden doing about it? Um ... seizing it?”
It’s funny because it’s true. The congressman’s tweet effectively asked why the Biden administration isn’t doing something that the Biden administration is doing. It’s as if the political world is overdue for a conversation about the meaning of the word “seized.”
Circling back to our earlier coverage, criminals have tried to smuggle illegal drugs into the country 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 — and lately, they’ve had several important successes.
That is, of course, what most Americans — again, excluding drug dealers — want.
And yet, Republicans routinely complain in the wake of border seizures, which isn’t just strange, it also contradicts the party’s previous line. In early 2019, for example, when border officials seized a massive shipment of methamphetamine at a Texas port of entry, Sen. Ted Cruz celebrated the developments. For the Republican, this wasn’t proof of a “Trump border crisis,” it was instead simply evidence of the “great work” being done by Americans. Under Biden, Cruz is saying the opposite.
He’s not alone. Two years ago, the Republican National Committee pointed to drug seizures as proof that Donald Trump and his policies were helping “protect our nation.” Now, the RNC is trying to convince Americans that more recent drug seizures are evidence of “Biden’s open border,” which obviously isn’t open, since officials keep seizing illicit drugs.
How do Republicans explain the obvious contradiction? By ignoring it.
If Republican 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 is a tough sell.
White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates asked via Twitter last fall, “Wait, Republicans are now attacking us for stopping fentanyl trafficking?” As it turns out, that wasn’t a rhetorical question.