EDITORIAL: Like his Uncle A. James, Joe Manchin Plays us for Fools

A. James...or Joe?
A. James...or Joe?

Once again, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin is everywhere, all the time when you turn on the TV.  One wonders when the man has time to tend to West Virginia legislation in Washington, as he assumes the position of Guardian of the Catholic Church and self-appointed Defender of the WVU Faith.  But the truth is, Joe Manchin was needed on neither the recent Obama contraception issue, nor WVU's move to the Big XII.

Manchin has quite nearly perfected the old political art of jumping aboard a popular train and convincing at least some of his consitutents that he has been the conductor of that train all along. 

Case in point:  Obamacare's contraception fiasco.   Apparently, this was a beautiful, even irresistable opportunity for Manchin to look good to a group of voters who increasingly had reasons to doubt that he was in their corner.  We speak here of Manchin's fellow Catholics, along with all religious conservatives who have easily felt thrown overboard, not only by President Obama but by Manchin himself in the past year.  Why?

Because Manchin heavily supported then voted for Obamacare--and the taxpayer-paid abortions it will provide-- as soon as he entered the U.S. Senate.  This, even after saying at the end of the Raese/Manchin race in 2010 that he could no longer support it.  

To make matters worse for this significant subset of the West Virginia voting public, Manchin then demanded that Planned Parenthood continue to receive over $300 million in federal funds, even after the House Republicans sent over a budget bill with that funding taken out.

Frankly, Joe Manchin's first year as a U.S. Senator saw him being as supportive of taxpayer-paid abortions as Teddy Kennedy ever was.  This produced much understandable angst among those who wanted to believe that Manchin was actually sincere in his prior pledges against Obamacare and taxpayer-paid abortions.

Desperate for a way to woo back some of these religious folks, Manchin jumped aboard the latest relevant train, the Obama Contraception Express, which, because of the President's offending of Catholics and others concerned with religious freedom, was just the vehicle Manchin needed.  Thus we see Manchin everywhere now as a born again believer in religious freedom.

But seriously now, think back: can you ever remember Joe Manchin giving profound insights before on any religious freedom issue?  We can't.  He's never so much as given one talk on the subject before.

But Manchin can play act for a few days to get out of the doghouse a bit with some religious voters in West Virginia--as long as no one brings up his votes for taxpayer-paid abortions in 2011.  That's the real context for his current efforts for religious freedom.  For how can you be outraged over birth control, yet vote twice for taxpayer-paid abortions? 

Many religious voters believe they should have the religious freedom from paying for a procedure that goes against their conscience, their religious freedom.  Didn't Manchin ever think of that?


Likewise, Manchin last year donned his faded Superman cape to singlehandedly help WVU beat out that dastardly Kentucky Senator, Mitch McConnell, and his dreaded Louisville Cardinals. 

Give us a break.  Manchin is playing us for fools, just as his Uncle A. James used to do when he would "stand up for West Virginia" by going on the TV show "Real People" to beat up on an old junk car along our roadsides.  Nobody ever asked either Manchin to be our savior, especially because their help has been rarely needed or effective.  We need leaders, not mere entertainers who embarass us all.

In the case of WVU's entry into the Big XII, the football team got us there with its performance over the years.  Period. The fact that Manchin "rattled his sword" on the floor of the U.S. Senate, threatening an investigation if WVU didn't get in, had nothing to do with our entry there. The decision had already been made.  All that remained were some final formalities and, as predicted, WVU got in.

But Manchin continues to suggest that he saved the day, much like the rooster who thinks he made the sun rise by his cockadoodling.

A certain percentage of West Virginia voters are apparently willing to accept such silly melodramas from an elected official who apparently thinks we're really that dumb.  Like Uncle A. James, who would delight school children who visited his office by being introduced by an aide and coming into the room from behind a velvet curtain, Joe Manchin has a pressing need for adulation--even if it comes from trying to fool us. 

But from what we're hearing from all corners of the state and across party lines, Joe Manchin's vaudeville act is increasingly wearing thin on the West Virginia voter.

One word describes Manchin's year of showmanship and thin legislative accomplishments in D.C.:  overexposed.

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