Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, former U.S. representative from El Paso, TX and Ted Cruz’s challenger as a 2018 candidate for U.S. Senate, routinely shows up on short lists for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential race.
So it’s news when he weighs in on the issues of border security and immigration. O’Rourke posted a video response on Facebook, for example, after President Trump delivered his Oval Office address on Tuesday night. Politico has a transcript of a key passage:
“I think he [Trump] has seized this emotional language very effectively, completely irresponsibly, not tethered to the truth,” O’Rourke said. “But if I don’t live in El Paso, if I haven’t had the experience that we’ve had, if I live in Michigan, Iowa, Oregon, the northern border, I don’t … I may not know any better, and ‘Sh*t, the president of the United States just said that there are rapists and criminals and murderers who will chop your head off coming to get us. F**k yeah, build a wall.’ And so … I can see responding that way.”
As can we all, I am sure. O’Rourke did essay a more affirmative posture on the migration issue back in November, when he made the legitimate suggestion that the U.S. should do a better job of helping to defeat cartel crime and government corruption in Central America.
Unfortunately, Mr. O’Rourke doesn’t come off as someone who would follow up on that in any credible, effective way. And on Thursday, he solidified that impression with a choice of venue and visuals that could hardly have established a more vivid counterpoint to Trump’s visit to the border near McAllen, TX.
Granted, it’s hard to compete with the gravitas that naturally attends a presidential visit. It’s a hard act to follow: arriving on Air Force One and mustering U.S. and state officials, numerous uniformed Border Patrolmen and women, and personally-affected citizens. The president speaks before a bank of cameras and everyone listens. He stands at the border and by his presence and absorption clarifies that it matters. He doesn’t have to do anything clever or catchy to get attention. He has the inherent advantage of being the one who is supposed to identify and address issues.
So there’s a sense in which any attempt at similar political signaling by a potential rival (who doesn’t currently hold office) would be a pale, ineffective copy. Maybe Beto O’Rourke had that in mind when he decided to focus on border security and immigration by going to the dentist, and livestreaming himself receiving a cleaning from a Latina dental hygienist.
Yes, this is real. Beto O’Rourke livestreamed his dentist appointment on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/rbf0wueck0
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) January 10, 2019
The Hill recounts:
“So I’m here at the dentist and we’re going to continue our series on the people of the border,” O’Rourke says in a video posted on Instagram as he receives a dental cleaning.
O’Rourke, who represented a district in El Paso, then flips the camera in the direction of his hygienist, Diana, who recounts her time growing up near the U.S.-Mexico border.
It’s not that O’Rourke is making a point that’s wrong or invalid, by posting his dental hygienist’s story.
Diana, wearing goggles and a mask over her face, said she was born in El Paso and that her father was a U.S. citizen. She added that her mother was born in a small town in Mexico and that she herself was a permanent resident in the U.S. while studying for her American citizenship.
She said people in the area were extremely helpful during her time studying for her citizenship, and that “the entire neighborhood was there when she passed her citizenship test.”
But he is making a point that is irrelevant to border security. We don’t need insecure borders to have nice, accomplished people like Diana become citizens of the United States. We do need secure borders to keep out people like the accused killer of Officer Ronil Singh, one of the thousands of Americans slain in recent years by illegal migrants: people who are a special threat precisely because they are offered “sanctuary” from the follow-through of law enforcement that legal Americans and legal immigrants can’t take advantage of.
Maybe Tyler O’Neill is right, in his article at PJ Media:
Denise McAllister called it [O’Rourke’s posting] “weird and narcissistic.” Tragically both for iGen and for America, it seems young people are increasingly “weird and narcissistic.”
But I’m not sure most of iGen is really that weird. O’Rourke doesn’t just come off here as narcissistic. If he’s making an appeal as a potential POTUS, he comes off as lacking any sense of judgment, pertinence, or reality. You can see this guy fiddling while Rome burns to the ground – and streaming it live on Instagram.
That’s not how Trump looks, as he slogs on with his quest to secure the border. He mainly looks focused and determined. Some might say overly so, or use more disparaging adjectives, but the bottom line is that his stance actually makes logical sense, and is about doing something identifiable and relevant. What’s there to agree or disagree with matters to the actual problem for America. In the case of the visit to the dentist, what’s there seems to matter mainly to Beto O’Rourke.