National Democrats are attacking Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for criticizing President Barack Obama’s immigration policies in a meeting with Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina.
Paul visited Guatemala on an aid mission in which he performed–with a team of doctors from the John A. Moran Eye Center–upwards of a hundred surgeries to remove cataracts from blind Guatemalans with no access to the needed medical care.
Democrats have worked to frame the trip as political, sending out two press releases attacking the current GOP frontrunner in 2016 polling about the trip.
“Rand Paul has made a big deal of his trip to Guatemala, where he is doing some much needed aid work to underserved communities,” Michael Czin, the communications director for the Democratic Party, said in a memorandum distributed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). “While everyone should commend Paul for his aid work, it’s unfortunate he turned a trip organized by a well-respected eye center into a crass campaign photo op.”
The Democrats cite the fact that Breitbart News, the Washington Post, NBC News, Christian Broadcasting Network, and the National Review sent reporters to Guatemala to report on Paul’s aid mission there, and how several political figures like Citizens United’s David Bossie, GOP ad-makers Rex Elsass and Rick Tyler, a Citizens United film crew, and Paul’s chief of staff Doug Stafford were there, as well. Also cited were comments Paul made in an interview with Breitbart News to argue that the trip was “political.”
Czin, in a separate “shot” and “chaser” press release, incorrectly listed Fox News as being present on the trip–they weren’t–and argued that since Breitbart News’s headline on one of the stories was “in all caps, of course” that it must be political. (For the record, every Breitbart headline is all-caps by style, so it does not denote anything in particular.)
At heart, though, the DNC is criticizing Paul for remarks he made to Guatemala’s President Molina in a 45-minute meeting Wednesday evening. Although most of their discussion, according to Paul, was about the humanitarian mission he had come there for, when the talk turned to immigration, he criticized President Obama.
Paul said President Obama’s planned executive amnesty, and other immigration policies like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are the cause of the border crisis–not Guatemala’s policies. Paul said:
It comes from the president basically offering unilaterally, without congressional approval, beacons or magnets without securing the border. He seems to be doing this again, because he doesn’t have what it takes to get Congress to pass legislation. So it all starts, as many conservatives say, you can’t have immigration reform without first having a secure border. But I think what’s happened at the border is all squarely at the president’s lap. The problem and the solution aren’t in Guatemala. The problem and solution reside inside the White House.
During the interview with Breitbart News, Paul also joined a call from Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow a vote on the House-passed border crisis bill that would block the president’s planned efforts to continue or expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive amnesty. The House passed that bill, and a companion bill that would deal with asylum and funding issues for the border crisis, before breaking for August recess, but Reid’s Senate didn’t pass anything to deal with the border crisis. Paul went on to say:
I’m supportive of the House bill, and I think it will go a long way to fixing the problem. But like everything else, nothing good has happened, because Sen. Reid has decided that he’s not going to allow any votes on any bills this year, because he’s protecting his members who are vulnerable in the election–he’s protecting them from any kind of votes. So I think there’s a very good chance the House bill could pass in the Senate, but it won’t ever pass if it doesn’t ever see the light of day. This is a problem with a number of issues–there’s been almost no votes on any bills this year, because they’re [the Democrats are] frankly afraid of letting their members vote in public.
Part of Czin’s DNC memo criticizing Paul attacked the Kentucky firebrand for voting with all Senate Republicans and politically vulnerable Democrats to, on a bipartisan basis, kill the Senate’s supplemental appropriations bill on the border crisis. “Volunteering one’s time for aid work is admirable and commendable,” Czin wrote. “Proposing policies that would adversely affect millions in need across the globe is not. As for the crisis at the border, Paul voted against immigration reform that would have provided resources to secure the border [and] opposed an emergency supplemental package to address the crisis at hand.”
When asked if Czin and the DNC believe that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should allow a vote on the House-passed border crisis plan–the two separate bills both passed with bipartisan support–instead of continuing to block the bills after the Senate returns from August recess, Czin wouldn’t answer. Instead, he criticized the House GOP for not taking up the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration bill, telling Breitbart News that he doesn’t “get that logic” of criticism of Reid’s blocking of the House-passed border bills, “given that House R’s have failed to take up the bi-partisan senate immigration bill.” It’s worth noting that Czin criticized Paul over his opposition to the Senate Democratic leadership’s failed border crisis bill that was killed on a bipartisan vote before recess, bringing this question into the debate.
In response to the DNC’s criticisms of his trip, Stafford–Paul’s chief of staff–told Breitbart News that Paul was just telling the truth to Guatemala’s president. In an email, Stafford said:
Senator Paul did in Guatemala what he does every day in the U.S. — speak the truth. Career politicians and political parties don’t get that, but the American people do. If the DNC and the White House don’t see that their shredding of the constitution and abdication of responsibility for securing our border is the problem, they are the only ones. Out of control executive actions fit for a king, coupled with policies that serve as a beacon for people to come illegally, along with no plan to secure the border, have left the United States in a vulnerable position.
Stafford added that because of President Obama’s immigration policies, Americans are at risk–and rather than doing something about it, the DNC is blasting out press releases to reporters in Washington, D.C.
“Our economy and national security are at risk, and the DNC is sending out press releases about where the problem was pointed out,” Stafford said. “They should focus their concern on fixing the issue, and on the President for his utter failure on this issue.”