A day or two before what is widely believed to be the day he’ll announce the kickoff of his campaign for governor, Republican Attorney General Tim Fox took to Twitter Wednesday to offer a little pandering to the nativist wing of his party that believes letting President Trump get away with his tantrum about a border wall is more sensible policy than addressing our nation’s drug crisis where it begins: in our communities.
The need for greater border security is indisputable. Inexpensive Mexican meth is pouring into Montana in record amounts & high purity. It kills our citizens, destroys our families, & clogs our justice system. Open our government & secure our borders now! https://t.co/2CFdXfFjSf
— Tim Fox (@AGTimFox) January 16, 2019
While Fox is certainly right that meth is destructive, his assertion that securing our border with Mexico will solve the problem (especially in the context of Trump’s wall rhetoric) ignores the simple truth that closing the border with Mexico will have little impact on the problem. Just ask the DEA:
As Trump correctly suggests, Mexico is the immediate previous stop for most of the illicit drugs that enter America. But traffickers don’t tend to send their products over the border along the places where Trump would build a wall, as Pacific Standard’s Jack Herrera previously reported.
Instead, they mostly drive drugs over, in personal vehicles, through official ports of entry or Border Patrol checkpoints, as the Drug Enforcement Administration outlines in its National Drug Threat Assessment for 2017. Only a “small percentage” of heroin, for example, was seized along the U.S.–Mexico land border between ports of entry in 2017, the DEA reports. Heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine were all most often found in personal vehicles, or tractor-trailers carrying legal goods, at ports of entry.
Don’t believe the “deep state” DEA? Then just ask the actual traffickers, who agree that a wall won’t stop drugs from getting to the U.S.
A wall on the Mexican border won’t stop drugs from coming into Montana, and given the number of arrests in Montana border towns for drug offenses, I’m eager to learn how Mr. Fox proposes hardening our border with Canada without drastically harming the flow of legitimate goods between Montana and our trading partners to the North.
Worse than Fox’s misrepresentation of the problem on the ground, though, is that he used to advocate what works. Back in 2017, he was focusing on health care, drug courts, and treatment, all of which are cheaper and more effective than drug interdiction efforts:
That’s why Montana Attorney General Tim Fox started Aid Montana last year. It’s an initiative to collaborate with private sector, federal, state and local government to find solutions.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this issue. Law enforcement will always be a component of combating this substance abuse epidemic but we certainly needs to work on education and prevention, early intervention through our health care systems, through our justice courts, our family and judge courts. We need to make sure we have treatment options available for individuals. It’s an all hands-on deck situation,” Fox said.
Fox said it’s time all parties realize that meth addiction’s a disease and a fixable issue if resources are available.
Tim Fox knows better than to argue for more law enforcement to solve the drug problem, but he also knows that sensible, humane drug policy centered on prevention just doesn’t play well with the right-wing voters who dominate Montana primary politics.
And in this first battle between advocating the right thing or the politically expedient thing, Fox has decisively chosen the latter.
It’s easy to understand the forces that will pull Tim Fox to the right in his campaign for governor. Having watched more moderate Russ Fagg lose to Matt Rosendale in the Senate primary and facing a likely challenge from Greg Gianforte, Fox will feel pressured to abandon the few moderate positions he’s taken as Attorney General to have any chance of winning over a GOP electorate that’s been consumed from the inside by the TEA Party and both radicalized and made irrational by the ascendance of Donald Trump.
It’s going to be a long campaign season, folks.