IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

RNC steps on its own ‘open borders’ talking points (again)

Republicans want us to believe there's an "open borders" policy. They also keep talking about drugs seized at the border. Both points can't be true.


It was last fall when Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, published an odd tweet complaining about U.S. officials seizing illegal drugs trying to enter the country. She wrote, “899 lbs of fentanyl and 15,631 lbs of methamphetamine were seized at the southern border in October [2021] alone.” McDaniel added, “We need border security!”

There was, however, an obvious disconnect between the former point and the latter: If U.S. official at the U.S./Mexico border seized these drugs, it means we already have a fair amount of border security.

Nevertheless, as we’ve discussed, the contradiction didn’t get in the way of the party’s messaging. In February, McDaniel’s RNC pushed the same line: “Illicit drugs are flowing into the country at an alarming rate because of Biden’s open border. 839 pounds of deadly fentanyl was seized at the southern border in January alone.”

Again, the cognitive dissonance went ignored. If there’s an open border, how were the drugs seized?

Last night, the RNC pushed the message once more.

It came on the heels of Republican Rep. Pat Fallon of Texas publishing a tweet late last week that read, “Last month saw OVER 50,000lbs of illegal drugs seized at our southern border. But don’t worry, the border is being ‘effectively managed.’”

Is it possible we’re overdue for a conversation about what Republicans think “seized“ means?

Circling back to our earlier coverage, it’s genuinely weird how frequently this comes up. It was last summer, for example, when 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 — up until recently, the 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.

The Arizonan nevertheless had plenty of company. Around the same time, a variety of other GOP lawmakers — South Carolina’s Ralph Norman, Texas’ Brian Babin, Texas’ Beth Van Duyne, Texas’ August Pfluger — all criticized the Biden administration over fentanyl shipments seized at the border.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa also highlighted fentanyl shipments that have been seized by Customs and Border Patrol, adding, “Welcome to President Biden’s America.”

In President Biden’s America, officials seizing illicit drug shipments before they reach the United States? That’s a bad thing?

As we’ve discussed, 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.

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

For Republicans to routinely criticize the seizures is quite 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 RNC keeps claiming, then the Biden administration wouldn’t have stopped these shipments before they entered the country.

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 should be a tough sell from a public-relations perspective.

Last fall, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates asked via Twitter, “Wait, Republicans are now attacking us for stopping fentanyl trafficking?” Months later, it remains a good question.