The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports on a bizarre response Rep. Tom Cotton during a tele-townhall (Arkansas Democrats recorded the townhall; audio is here). Here’s Cotton: 

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.

When it comes to rank demagoguery and fear-mongering, this is hard to top. Sargent asked Cotton spokesperson David Ray about it and Ray passed on a series of articles from World News Daily, Breitbart, Fox News and the like. 


Sargent notes the neat trick of conflating “terrorism and illegal immigration into one giant, terrifying, hydra-headed threat to the country”:

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.

Congressman Cotton’s version seems to go a step further, envisioning an active, ongoing collaborative effort between the Islamic State, and Mexican drug cartels who are looking to diversify by branching out into terrorism, whose end goal is to kill Americans on U.S. soil.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow has performed an anatomy of this developing story on the right. Blow concluded that it originated on a conservative website, which suggested that ISIS may be “working to infiltrate the U.S. with the aid of transnational drug cartels.” A Republican Congressman from Texas similarly said ISIS and Mexican drug cartels have been “talking to each other.” And from there, it was onward to Fox News. Some of the sources Blow found overlap with the Cotton campaign’s back-up materials from conservative media.

Cotton wants to attack Pryor on immigration (and connect him with Obama on this issue) and he wants to attack him as weak on foreign policy (again, Obama!), so might as well mix up the two.


On the one hand this seems like a run-of-the-mill, if ugly, attempt to sew public panic for political gain. On the other hand, while Cotton will vote with other GOPs in the Senate nine times out of ten on domestic policy, he is a genuine outlier in his lust for neoconservative adventuring. Speaking of scary, his potential ascension to a higher profile in the Senate is much more frightening in that realm. When D.C. elites say, “it’s time we got serious about it,” they really mean, let’s go to war again.