Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a politician is crazy or just joking. The problem is usually that no one is laughing. Such was the case recently when two candidates offered a radical solution to the humanitarian crisis on the Texas border: Bomb Mexico. Serious or not, it shows how far the anti-immigrant tide has carried some politicians from realistically addressing border security and immigration reform.
The first example of this idea to turn South Texas into a war zone happened in June at a Republican candidate forum in North Carolina. Typically, these affairs encourage candidates to try to get to the right of each other in front of audiences of Republican activists. But even in this environment, what Mark Walker said was so out there that Dick Cheney would have gasped in admiration.
In response to a question about drug cartels sneaking over our southern border, Walker, a Baptist preacher, preached war: “If we gotta go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point, I don’t have a problem with that, either.”
The moderator, making a mockery of his title, then asked, “I hope you wouldn’t have any qualms about starting up a little war with Mexico.”
“Well, we did it before,” Walker said. “If we need to do it again, I don’t have a qualm about it.”
And why should he? Last time we went to war with Mexico, we ended up with California and New Mexico. Maybe this time we could annex Playa del Carmen. Ask not what you Mexican do for your country, ask what you Mexican’t. See what I did there? Those are called jokes. What Walker said about not having a single qualm about initiating armed conflict with our neighbor, ally, and trading partner is only funny if you treat it like the ridiculous utterances of a simple man with outsized ambitions. But the Republicans nominated him anyway. See, that’s another joke.
Still, Walker’s campaign spokesman claimed that his boss was joking. “In the context of the question, it does not mean the country” of Mexico should be attacked, said the spokesman, which is funnier than anything Walker said. That’s like saying we’re not lobbing missiles at Iraq and Syria, just at ISIL troops who only happen to be standing in Iraq and Syria. If explaining away random declarations of war doesn’t work out for Walker’s spokesman, maybe he should hit the comedy club circuit.
Absolutely not funny in any way is Tony Tinderholt, a former Air Force Spanish Cryptologic Linguist who is running for the Texas House from North Texas. And he acknowledges that the border kids who overran our border last summer were looking for a better life, but that’s where his goodwill ends.
“That better life to them is free stuff. We have to stop them,” he told Republican activists at a candidate forum. “They’re stealin’ from us. We’re bein’ thieved. They’re taking from you and I and the American people, and they’re taking from the life blood of our country, and we have to stop ’em.”
How should we stop these pre-teen narco-trafficking welfare cheats? Should we help use our military and the tools of soft power to bring stability to Central America, thus letting these kids stay at home without fear of gang violence? Should we examine whether our prohibition against drugs is a foolish, costly, and hopeless effort? Perhaps work with Mexico to create refugee camps for these children there? Nah, Tinderholt has a better idea.
“You know, war is not pretty,” he said, “but we have to stop this influx at the border. I think we should go across the border and stop it. But I’ll tell ’ya in the short term, we gotta put our military at the border and stop this crap from happening now.”
Clearly, the problem we have is that politicians are encouraged to formulate foreign policy at Republican candidate forums. The border is more than a line between Texas and Mexico. It also marks a division between what wins Republican primaries and what solves real-world problems, and that’s no joke. In fact, it’s kind of sad.
Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford. His columns are distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.