Little big man
Markwayne Mullin sells out his people
Flag of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
RaksyBH / Shutterstock.com
Say what you want in defense of Second District Rep. Markwayne Mullin—and I can only imagine how exhausting such an act would be—the man doesn’t embarrass easily. Throughout his career, his derp, like the foam on a well-made cappuccino, has risen to the top and stayed there, frothy and proud.
There was his petulant observation while standing in a supermarket check-out line that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was a “complete fraud” because he happened to be standing behind a good-looking couple—the man, he said, “built like a brick house … with muscles all over him” and the woman “in spandex … like she came from a fitness program”—who were paying with a SNAP card.
Then there was his visible regret that the racist loons could not prove President Obama was a Kenyan usurper, and how Mullin may have said he no longer “[gave] a shit” about the issue. (You be the judge—watch the video. Operators are standing by.) There was his decision to run for a fourth congressional term because God informed him it was important to have members of the Oklahoma delegation on key House committees; there was his ignorance when he talked of the nation and its “four” branches of government; there was his dismissal of the “bullcrap” suggestion that constituents paid his salary because he, Mullin, paid taxes and didn’t want or need the job anyway; and there was the laughable attempt to protect the honor of Donald Trump Jr. by offering to wrestle Stormy Daniels’ one-time attorney Michael Avenatti.
Mullin, plumber by trade, former wrestler, is a walking punchline for anyone who can conjugate subjects and verbs and cares about dignified representation. He is only the second Republican in 100 years to represent the Second District (the last being St. Thomas of Coburn), a district so deeply red it’s more of a Shiraz. Mullin will be there as long as he wants, as frightening a thought as that might be. (I actually supported his decision to run for that fourth term, even after he promised his constituents he would retire after his third, even after his tortured explanation.)
And even if he hates Washington, he likes being a politician, all his barking to the contrary. Who can blame him? Who wouldn’t, upon reflection, prefer to walk the halls of the Rayburn House Office Building looking for bill co-sponsors rather than standing ankle-deep in water in the Hard Rock Hotel restroom changing out a busted angle stop? That Mullin has turned arrogance, ignorance, simple-mindedness, rationalizations, and incuriousness into an art form is not surprising, but his spinelessness of late is.
And that’s what I’m talking about here.
According to one account, Trump called [Massachusetts US Senator] Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’ at least 26 times between 2014 and the end of 2017.
What do the president’s comments have to do with Mullin?
In a moment.
First, here’s Dr. John Norwood, general secretary of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes, on the insidiousness of Trump’s verbal assaults:
“Pocahontas was a historic figure, so just simply using the name is not a racial slur,” Norwood, a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, said. “However, the use of it in a derogatory fashion to insult someone degrades the name and all it represents, and then it becomes a racial slur. The president was attacking a claim by Senator Warren about American Indian ancestry, and to insult that claim by calling her ‘Pocahontas’ turns the name into a racial slur.”
Let’s repeat: 26 times, the President of the United States belittled the Massachusetts senator (and Oklahoma native) with this racist taunt—which is precisely the number of times Markwayne Mullin, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, said nothing about it. You can believe that Warren used what she calls her Native American heritage to advance her career, as Mullin does—she didn’t, in my view, but that’s another story— but to allow Donald Trump to so gleefully mock the heritage of which he is otherwise proud is unsettling, bordering on unforgivable cowardice. Making matters worse, Mullin piled on.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren “absolutely” has used her claims of Native American heritage to get ahead with voters and in her career and should be disbarred, Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a member of the Cherokee Nation, said Friday.
Aside from everything else … disbarred? From what? She’s not licensed to practice law. She was a law professor at Harvard, congressman. She’s the senior senator from Massachusetts. Senators aren’t disbarred. Try to keep up.
It wasn’t just the Pocahontas reference, either.
Trump, as part of his ongoing campaign of petty insults against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), responded to a video stream she posted by writing, “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!”
What does Trump have to do to get a rise out of Mullin? Do a tomahawk chop before boarding Marine One?
You’d think the president mentioning a headdress and the commercial prospects of “Bighorn” or “Wounded Knee” would bother Mullin, right?
In another instance, ostensibly to honor Navajo code talkers, the president said this:
“You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”
No, they don’t call her that—you do.
Trump turned to one of the Navajo code talkers, who served in World War II, and said: “But you know what? I like you. Because you are special. You are special people, you are really incredible people.”
You’d think, surely, at this point, Mullin would tell the president to knock it off.
You’d once again be wrong.
And what the hell was going on here?
“We’re not trying to play politics,” Mullin said. “My family literally still live … I drove in this morning an hour and a half to get to the studio where my family literally stopped walking on the ‘volunteer walk,’ and I use that as a loose term. I still live on the Indian allotment land that my family has.”
The Trail of Tears was a walk in the same way Auschwitz was full of employment opportunities.
After receiving some criticism for this characterization, Mullin explained he was referring to the fact his family was among the “old settler” Cherokees who came to Indian Territory before the forced removal—and that, he says, is what he was referring to as a “voluntary walk.” A conflicting account, which described his family as having “[walked] on the Trail of Tears,” was then scrubbed from a press release on his website. (Unlike Senator Warren, apparently, the congressman can spin his family folklore however he wants.)
Meanwhile, Trump’s racism, about which Mullin is silent, has a pedigree going back decades.
“I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations,” Trump said during a 1993 radio interview with shock jock Don Imus.
In 2000, Trump paid more than $1 million for an ad campaign that portrayed members of an Indian tribe in upstate New York as cocaine traffickers and career criminals, according to The Washington Post.
Yet, Mullin is positively irked that 30 years ago Senator Warren indicated on two applications she was of Native American heritage.
Which completes the selective outrage portion of our show.
Congressman Mullin does not have to be the voice of Native Americans, nor does he have to defend their honor every time the president tweets about Elizabeth Warren, but if he’s going to champion his heritage and honor the blood spilled by his ancestors, the least he can do is say something when the leader of the free world bathes in the deep end of his own doltishness. On Mullin’s website, he states he is only one of four Native Americans currently serving in the House of Representatives and has 23 separate announcements—press releases, legislative actions he has introduced or advocated on behalf of programs for Native Americans—expressing his concern.
If only this bothered him as much.
“Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!”
It was just a walk though.