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RNC’s rhetoric about the southern border turns self-defeating

It was only a matter of time before the RNC captured its cognitive dissonance on border security in one handy package.


It was a few months ago 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. “We need border security!” McDaniel concluded, indifferent to the fact that we obviously have border security, or the drug seizures wouldn’t have happened.

Yesterday, her RNC pushed a similar line via Twitter:

“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.”

It was only a matter of time before the RNC captured its cognitive dissonance on border security in one handy package.

Note the degree to which the first sentence in the tweet contradicts the second. The public is supposed to believe that President Joe Biden had adopted an “open border” policy that allows illicit drugs to flow into the United States. The public is also supposed to believe that the Biden administration keeps seizing illicit drugs before they reach American soil thanks to existing border security measures.

Both of these claims can’t be true.

And yet, as regular readers know, this has become an incredibly popular claim among Republicans. 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 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 RNC claimed yesterday, then Customs and Border Protection 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?” It’s hardly an unreasonable question given the circumstances.