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Lankford says he found the swamp in DC

U.S. Sen. James Lankford speaks at a "community coversation" Monday night in Oklahoma City. [Chris Casteel/The Oklahoman]
U.S. Sen. James Lankford speaks at a "community coversation" Monday night in Oklahoma City. [Chris Casteel/The Oklahoman]

U.S. Sen. James Lankford has seen the swamp in Washington, D.C.

The real one, not the figurative one that some people want drained.

At a “community conversation” Monday night in Oklahoma City, the Republican senator was asked if the nation’s capital really was a swamp. He related a story of hiking on Theodore Roosevelt Island, a national park and memorial in the Potomac River, just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol.

There, he said, he discovered swampland.

“I took a picture,” he said at the gathering of about 150 people at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives.

Lankford fielded questions about immigration, trade, climate change, the budget, the national debt and how he could “stay positive” in a place like Washington.

“I believe you should pray more than you complain,” the Southern Baptist minister said, while acknowledging that “it is a very frustrating place.”

Lankford made a strong argument for free trade and, without referring specifically to actions by the Trump administration, said, “High tariffs impede our ability to trade internationally.”

He said President Donald Trump might have the authority to shut down the border to Mexico temporarily but shouldn’t. All manner of commerce crosses the border each day, he said.

“It would hurt Mexico tremendously,” he said. “It would hurt us tremendously.”

There is no movement in Congress toward comprehensive changes in immigration policy, Lankford said, adding that legislative changes will be required to stem the flow of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States.

Lankford said he had seen manifestations of climate change, including the eastward movement of tornado alley. However, expressing the sentiments of many conservatives, he said he hadn’t been persuaded that humans caused it or that predictions are accurate.

Asked about the president’s proposed cuts to various social programs, Lankford dismissed White House budgets as essentially useless documents that should be discontinued.

“The proposals out there to cut various safety net programs are not happening,” he said.

Still, he said, the nation’s mounting debt must be addressed.

“I’m shocked how little dialogue there has been,” he said.

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›