Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is cozying up to the people cozying up to a twice-impeached insurrectionist. That’s bad enough. But he’s doing it at our expense in state resources, tax dollars and community safety. He hoped you wouldn’t notice. That’s why news about the governor sending Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers to the Texas-Mexico border garnered three sentences in a press release sure to get scant attention over the Fourth of July holiday. Nothing to see here.
Also on the recent holiday weekend, the governor’s office released a brief mention of another contingent of Ohio National Guard troops going to the southern border. That brings the total to 300 activated at the behest of the federal government and its seemingly endless military border mission. DeWine tried to spin the Ohio deployments to the border as being in Ohio’s best interest. Let’s unpack that, shall we?
Ohio taxpayers are paying to send state highway patrol troopers two thousand miles away on a two-week stint in which they will “assist local law enforcement with border surveillance” but “will not be tasked with making arrests.” So, Ohio communities will be arguably less safe with less troopers just to fulfill a vague and costly border excursion requested by the Texas governor. Plus, Ohio will be down 300 National Guard soldiers, who will be stuck on the Mexico border in a “non-law enforcement support” capacity with no end in sight.
How is this in Ohio’s best interest again, governor? You defended your curiously timed border deployments as “the right thing to do” to stop drugs from Mexico coming into the state. But why now? What changed? Could it be the caravan of Republican politicians jostling to hold photo ops at the border or to join their notorious standard-bearer in railing against the Biden administration for its immigration policies?
Absolutely. Might it be in Mike DeWine’s best interest to jump on the crazy train at the border with a string of Republican governors — including Florida’s Ron DeSantis and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem — to boost his bona fides with party extremists? Ditto. DeWine is already being primaried by at least one right-wing rival and he’s no hit with the MAGA crowd after a year of protested shutdowns and mask mandates. Even the disgraced ex-president slammed DeWine after the governor acknowledged then President-elect Biden when the defeated candidate wouldn’t.
But a missive from two Republican border governors gave the Ohio Republican an opening to regain favor with the Mar-a-Lago menace who still enthralls the party base DeWine needs to win reelection. The joint letter to all 50 governors from Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona leaves little doubt about the political motivation behind their pleas for assistance. “Securing our border with Mexico is the federal government’s responsibility,” they wrote. “But the Biden Administration has proven unwilling or unable to do the job. This failure to enforce federal immigration laws causes harms that spill over into every state.”
What follows are a litany of Republican talking points about the apocalyptic fallout of “the Biden Administration’s open-border disaster” warning of an impending avalanche of drugs and criminals flowing “to far too many of your communities.” The two governors boasted that their states “have stepped up to secure the border in the federal government’s absence” and urged other states “to stand with us.”
To amplify the GOP’s sure-fire campaign message of Democrats being soft on illegal immigration and border security, Gov. Ducey traveled to the border, surrounded by Republicans, and blamed President Biden, his administration and the Democratic Congress for everything going wrong with a decades-old problem. Gov. Abbott did the same with Biden’s shameless predecessor and echoed the rhetoric of his “great friend” in attacking Biden and bemoaning the “unfinished wall.” DeWine presumably wanted the national notoriety he received by being another Republican governor suddenly consumed with securing the southern border. It was apparently a worthwhile gamble to snag some right-wing cred, if not a coveted endorsement from the deposed grifter still lying about a stolen election.
Gubernatorial candidate DeWine packaged his political stunt to send state troopers to the Mexican border as a benefit to Ohio, but taxpayers aren’t getting a thing for their money. And what benefits, exactly, do Ohioans receive from having 300 Ohio National Guard soldiers parked on the border for months waiting for an exit strategy from an undefined operation?
Sorry, governor. Your decision to deploy Ohio forces in an immigration war shaped by Republicans to inflame supporters was to benefit your reelection campaign. Your political incentives could not have been more transparent. Ohioans see right through your trumped-up rationale. Next time, maybe consider a different plan to pander for votes that wouldn’t include taxpayer money and state resources but still score points with the right people.
Perhaps next time the DeWine campaign could just mail a check to help Abbott and Co. build the border wall — provided Steve Bannon isn’t the one cashing it. Just saying. Could be in your best interest.
Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.
This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.
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