Tahlequah Daily Press

December 5, 2012

Staying ‘approachable’

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — District 2 Congressman-Elect Markwayne Mullin told about three dozen people at a town hall meeting Tuesday night that his journey thus far into politics has been a “humbling and overwhelming experience.”

“Not overwhelming where it freezes you and you don’t how to act, but overwhelming in the respect that so many people have trusted us,” Mullin told the crowd at the Northeastern State University W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center Auditorium.

The Tahlequah gig was Mullin’s fifth stop of the day as part of his 26-county listening tour, designed to help him connect with voters on issues that concern the country. His mother and father were among those listening in the audience.

Mullin spoke about the changes he and his family have experienced since the November general election, then began fielding questions from the audience.

“Regardless if you voted for me or you didn’t vote for me, I am here to represent District 2, and the best way to do that is to hear your concerns,” he said. “I know my concerns. I know why I got into the race. I got fed up with government intrusion. I got fed up with them dictating every move I had to make, literally. That I had to ask permission. Before, you could do so much stuff that before, you would consider common sense.”

In describing the new experience that is Washington, D.C., Mullin said he was taken aback by how new members of the Republican and Democratic parties were segregated from one another during the orientation proceedings. Even within his own party’s activities, introductions of new members were never made during the two-week process.

He vows to remain “the person people know from Westville.”

“Everybody says, ‘Boy, you’re going to get up there, and you’re going take a drink out of the Potomac [River]. The best way for me to not take a drink out of that is for me to make sure I’m approachable. That means I’ve got to make sure I’m in front of you all the time and answer your questions,” Mullin said.

He doesn’t want to be treated like he’s somebody special.

“I’m Markwayne. I was Markwayne before I was elected, and I was Markwayne before I ran. I still expect to be Markwayne,” he said. “When you start putting up that barrier and saying ‘congressman’ – I understand the respect for the office. I do understand that, but respect for the office and being approachable, meaning that you can still come to me and ask me a question and make me explain myself to you. That’s part of me and you working together. I’m able to represent you, and you’re holding me accountable. That’s what keeps us grounded.”

The first question Mullin took was about his stand against war and how in the last debate, he changed his view and how agrees that Iran should be prohibited from obtaining a nuclear weapon at all costs. The member of the audience who posed the question noted experience living in Israel, and agreed the country should be a friend to the U.S.; however, the audience member said, it’s “complete hypocrisy” for the government to give billions of dollars to enemies of Israel, while declaring friendship ties. The man said he believed Iran would be better off with a nuclear weapon because America has proved it’s a “big bully in the world” by killing thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mullin told the man he respected his opinion.

“You and I are going to disagree on them needing a nuclear weapon. Someone with that lack of stability will pose not just a danger to Israel, but a danger to us,” Mullin said. “I don’t agree with us being a police country. I don’t agree with us sending troops into harm’s way and then having rules of engagement put on our men and women serving in the military. If we are asked to go someplace and we should go there, get the fight over with and come home. What I’m going to do is prevent a war or something happening on our soil. We choose to go to war. Let it be on our terms and fight it someplace else. That should be the absolute last option, and if Iran were able to get a nuclear weapon, how long do you think it is before Venezuela gets that kind of technology? What about Cuba? Now we’re in real trouble.”

Mullin told the man the countries he mentioned have “made no bones about” their wish to wipe Israel off the map. He said they view the U.S. as a dangerous country, and he declared they are “no friend of ours.”

“There’s no way that we can just sit back and allow them to do it. I do stand by what I said. All options should be on the table,” he said. “Before they get a nuclear weapon – and I may sound a little selfish here – I want to protect my kids first. And I’m not only going to protect my kids, I’m going to protect your kids, too.”

Other questions the audience presented were about Medicare and Social Security; the use of state tax dollars on transportation costs for turnpikes and sound barriers; the effects of the pending fiscal cliff; and getting more power for the state government.

An audience member asked Mullin if he would be willing to vote against any bill that negatively affected Medicare or Social Security. Mullin said promises should be kept.

“Social Security and Medicare is a promise; it’s not an entitlement. It’s a promise that our country made to us that said if we do this, they’ll do this. What they keep doing is renegotiating. We don’t get to renegotiate what we pay in,” he said. “They tell us and it immediately gets taken out of our check. That promise has to be kept.”

Mullin reminded the audience that he will do what he declared under oath he would do.

“I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution. Everybody has issues. You may not agree with my opinion, but one thing I can promise you is that I will always uphold the Constitution. Period,” he said.