District 2 U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin seemed to channel Pogo’s timeless quote when he told a group of approximately 100 individuals at the Kiamichi Technology Center on Friday that they — and he — share responsibility for the state of the nation.
Mullin didn’t say the exact words “We have met the enemy and he is us” — but he certainly conveyed a similar sentiment.
Mullin opened his McAlester town hall meeting by saying it’s a humbling experience to have been elected to serve the district.
“I could care less if you voted for me or didn’t vote for me,” he told the assembled crowd. He added that he also could care less if they were Democrat or Republican.
Mullin sharply pointed toward the American flag to his right.
“We still believe that’s the greatest flag in the world,” he said. We all agree on the Constitution, he added.
“It’s level playing field,” Mullin told those present.
Mullin said one thing he’s been told by his constituents again and again is “Markwayne, don’t change.” He also said his constituents have told him “how do we know you’re not going to take a drink out of the Potomac?”
While they, of course, were alluding to him “going Washington,” like so many others in the nation’s Capitol have done, Mullin drew laughter from the crowd when he made a joke of it.
“Have you seen that river? It’s disgusting,” he said. “I would never take a drink out of the Potomac.”
Turning serious, Mullin said when you’re a member of Congress in Washington, people treat you like you’re someone special — and they’re very careful never to tell you you’re wrong.
“If you’re never told you’re wrong, how can you ever learn?” he asked.
“What’s wrong with D.C. is nobody’s ever wrong, because they’re never told they’re wrong,” Mullin said.
“It’s the busiest town I’ve seen that never gets anything done.”
He told of walking marble steps inside the Capitol and marveling that “a kid from Westville, a small country town, has an opportunity to walk on the same steps” on which so many of the nation’s leaders have walked through the years.
He noted the nation that had been given like a gift to present generation by all the generations that came before it.
“What has my generation done, but point fingers at each other?” Mullin asked.
“There are people in this room who will instantly judge me because of what letter’s in front of my name.
“If we don’t stop judging each other, that’s what’s going to be written under our name — idiot,” Mullin said.
Mullin opened the floor for questions and was immediately asked “What’s your stance on the gun control issue coming up?”
“I got one with me,” Mullin said, to applause from the room.
Mullin went on to say that when President Barack Obama recently issued 23 executive orders related to the gun control issue, that he (Mullin) had been surprised at first that they didn’t go deeper.
“ I was surprised at the lack of teeth,” he said. Mullin said he now believes the president was “testing the waters.”
“Don’t think for a minute that the president wasn’t testing the waters, testing his limits,” said Mullin.
Noting he is only one House member, Mullin said “It’s not realistic for you to think I’m going to be taking care of everything.” If the rest of the nation operated like Oklahoma, “We’d probably be in pretty good shape,” he said.
Mullin stressed the importance of becoming involved.
“Remember, the Constitution wasn’t written by one person, so everybody’s opinion counts,” he said.
District 17 state Rep. Dr. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester, asked about the possibility of getting a law passed requiring food stamp recipients to get drug-tested. That would require federal action, since the food stamp program originates under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While Mullin didn’t disagree with the concept, he pointed to the experience of the state of Florida, which did institute such a program.
“It’s costing them more to do the drug tests” than they’re saving by cutting off food stamps to those who test positive for drugs, he said.
Mullin said he had a “pity party” one night when he was far from home at the nation’s Capitol and he felt his family needed him. However, he said he eventually fell asleep after realizing he was making an effort to solve the nation’s problems.
He exhorted those present to participate more in helping the nation meets its challenges.
“We’re all going to have to get involved; we’re all going to have to sacrifice a little bit.”
He also cautioned those present about thinking he could work on everything they want.
“If I try to solve everybody’s problem, I’m not going to be effective at anything,” Mullin said. Those who want the same things he’s working on will be pleased, Mullin predicted. Others... not so much.
“What I challenge you to do is choose your target,” Mullin said. “What are you passionate about? What is your pet peeve?”
“I want you to do more than what you’re doing,” Mullin said.
“Are you going to stop the first time it gets hard or someone says you can’t do it?”
“This happened under our watch,” said Mullin. “It’s our job to fix it.”
McAlester resident Judy Boswell had been among those attending the meeting. She apparently had been impressed with Mullin’s message.
“I’ve always liked him,” she said. “This one has such common sense, it’s unbelievable.”