Lucas: Politics is too much like reality TV

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., talks about details of federal policy. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

During a Monday afternoon town meeting at the Pawhuska Community Center, U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., opined that American national politics has become “too much like reality TV.”

“This is a nasty season,” Lucas also said, commenting that he will be glad when elections are over. Lucas, 58, who hails from Roger Mills County, has been a member of Congress since 1994. He previously served as a state representative. He is a former chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. House, and an acknowledged expert on farm legislation.

Lucas has also been recognized recently as one of the few members of Congress who continue to hold a full slate of town hall meetings in their home districts during the August recess.

An Aug. 21 story published online by Politico noted that members of Congress had scheduled some 70 percent fewer in-person events during this August recess than they did a year ago. In the same story, Politico said Lucas was one of five legislators who had scheduled about 30 percent of the total number of in-person events being held this month.

Lucas said Monday afternoon that his stop in Pawhuska was his tenth meeting of the recess. He had more scheduled, in Ponca City and Woodward. His district stretches from the Oklahoma panhandle all the way to Green Country.

“I’m a great believer in these,” he said of town halls. “This is one of the best ways to give me an opportunity to come look everybody in the eye.”

He sat in a chair in front of a small gathering Monday afternoon at the Pawhuska Community Center and talked for the better part of an hour about the details of national policy, the challenges that Oklahoma faces and the quirks of the Washington political scene.

Without criticizing President Donald Trump, Lucas characterized the chief executive as different from any other president with whom he has ever served. Lucas also said he’d rather run on his own record, as opposed to having the election be defined in terms of whether voters approve of the president.

Lucas has a Democratic opponent this fall, Frankie Robbins, but Lucas mentioned neither Robbins nor any anxieties about the November vote. Instead, he was focused on what may happen in 2019. If the Republicans keep their U.S. House majority, Lucas hopes to gain a new committee chairmanship next year. He also serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and the Financial Services Committee.

Lucas said that chairing the Science committee would be fun, but it would be more helpful to his constituents for him to become chair of the Financial Services Committee.

By the end of his remarks Monday, Lucas was almost quiet, leaning forward in his chair and speaking to the small group in tones no louder than a clergyman might use to say a somber prayer. He predicted there will be no comprehensive health bill and no comprehensive immigration bill anytime soon, because there is no consensus. He also cautioned his audience not to expect an infrastructure bill.

As he closed, Lucas touched on a final theme — that of protecting his constituents against the excesses of the national government.

“I can’t guarantee that the government will make your life any better, but I can try to make sure they don’t kill you,” he said.