Mr. Manchin Goes to Washington

Washington DC is an interesting town to say the least.  One thing is certain, it’s a company town and the sooner newbies grasp that the better

James Stewart as Sen. Jefferson Smith

One of the smartest things anyone can do is spend time developing an appreciation for the rules of the game, and one can only do that if they are willing to be taught by experienced pros.  I’ve always been fascinated by what Washington is willing to forgive in team players — huge, egregious, frankly disgusting faux pas and outright unethical behavior — as well as with the seemingly minor infractions that will be bashed over the infidel’s head for all time.

Joe Manchin is getting creamed for a dumb decision, and I think it is deserved.  What I mean by that is this:  The dumb decision was not skipping the DADT vote to spend time at a family party, per se; the dumb decision was not comprehending that as a green U. S. Senator, he has dues to pay.  Personally, I think he should have showed up to vote, that this is a serious piece of legislation, and that he owed casting his vote to the people of West Virginia.  But in terms of political strategy, he owed his presence and vote to his colleagues in the Senate.  This is the big leagues now, not home state goofball back slaps, wink wink nudge nudge stuff.

My observation is that Mr. Manchin keeps a tight old-school crowd around him and gives them tremendous power and influence.  That trust was misplaced in this case, as loyalists used to playing the game in West Virginia who have never done more than watch the game in DC are ill-equipped to advise him on the national scale.

Sure, there are some people in West Virgina who are stirring a crock pot and giving props to the idea that a nice family man prioritized the holidays with loved ones over those radical homosexuals.  That was yesterday’s game, and if Mr. Manchin wants to get serious about winning today’s game he should give the cronies a desk job and start listening, closely, to people who understand Washington.

It’s a difficult balance, in DC as in life itself; personal priorities vs. the requirements of the job.  It may be most difficult in politics.  Manchin made a mistake, and that hardly makes him unique.  His next move will be very important.  I suggest it should start with being willing to expand his advisory group beyond the old neighborhood.  There are people who are good with numbers, who no doubt told the senator that his vote could only hurt him one way or the other, that whatever he voted he would not cast a deciding vote, and that the math suggested he stay home.  Politics involves math, but those who are the very best at what they do know it involves more art.

As a constituent I am hopeful for greater art appreciation moving forward.

Image credit: American Rhetoric Movie Speeches

4 thoughts on “Mr. Manchin Goes to Washington

  1. This is the big leagues now, not home state goofball back slaps, wink wink nudge nudge stuff.

    I think this says it all. D.C. is definitely not the minor league. I didn’t vote for him (Manchin), but it’s kind of disappointing to think that his priorities (regardless whether or not there were enough votes for each issue) aren’t straight. I’m sure the other senators did not want to be there and would rather be with their families. There might have been other senators who had Christmas parties to attend. The point is, however, that this will probably remain on his record and a No Show and he should be reminded of that if/when he runs for re-election. He might as well have voted because, as observed, he was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. I don’t know if you could even compare it, but in a way it almost seems like a newly hired employee arriving to work late within a month or so of starting work.

    • Thanks for your comment! The whole thing just smells like bad advice from people who don’t get it. A senator has so much to manage, he or she has to be able to rely on advisors who can speak to specific issue areas. This feels like state politics, very small and very myopic. It’s really an incredibly difficult job on every level. Hindsight is 20/20. I think he needs better advice.

  2. It will be interesting to find out whether he did this on his own or had permission from Senate leadership, but I’d say it was more likely he did this on his own. I believe your analysis to be correct. Surely his Washington-savvy chief of staff didn’t tell him to skip the votes. All this did was anger both Republican and Democrats, both conservatives and liberals. At this rate I’m not sure he’ll make it past 2012.

  3. SAA, you make me consider he WAS advised against this. I hadn’t thought about that. If so, it’s worse than I thought. Something still makes me think someone close told him this was the way to go. Just a feeling….

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