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Press: Joe Manchin ain't no profile in courage

Press: Joe Manchin ain't no profile in courage
© Greg Nash

We Americans are the most gullible people on earth. And nobody captured that better than Charles Schultz in his classic Thanksgiving “Peanuts” cartoon about Charlie Brown and Lucy. No matter how many times Lucy had fooled him before, Charlie still believed that Lucy would hold the ball for him to kick — until she didn’t, yet again.

Sound familiar? We actually believed Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos MORE would “pivot” and start acting presidential, once he arrived in the Oval Office. Until he didn’t. We actually believed Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office Pelosi says she's giving Senate more time on Jan. 6 commission Overnight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve MORE (R-Maine) would vote to impeach Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial. Until she didn’t, insisting he’d “learned his lesson.”

And we’re still gullible. For the last couple of months, we actually believed Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSen. Manchin paves way for a telehealth revolution Manchin meets with Texas lawmakers on voting rights Schumer tees up sweeping election bill for vote next week MORE (D-W.Va.) would grow a backbone and not let Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Manchin opens door to supporting scaled-down election reform bill Pelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel MORE (R-Ky.) block the Senate from enacting any major legislation. Until he didn’t. And we are fools for thinking he ever would.

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After weeks of teasing — he wasn’t happy with McConnell’s opposition to the Jan. 6 Commission; he thought it was important to protect voting rights; he wanted to get things done — Manchin finally showed his true colors in Sunday’s op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, in which he announced his opposition to the Senate’s voting rights legislation and vowed to oppose any changes to the filibuster. “I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy,” Manchin wrote. “And for that reason, I will vote against the ‘For the People Act.’ ”

Please. Manchin can’t be that stupid. Surely, he knows that an assault on our democracy in the form of “partisan voting legislation” is already underway, led by Republican governors and state legislators across the land. Already this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 14 states have enacted at least 22 new laws restricting voting rights. By setting up national standards for voting — universal absentee ballots, expanded early voting, same-day voter registration, ending partisan gerrymandering — the “For the People Act” would make it more difficult for states to suppress the vote. Yet all Republicans oppose it. Is Manchin blind? In state after state, it’s Republicans who are playing politics with voting rights, not Democrats. How can there be bipartisanship when Republicans vote “No” on everything?

Most shameful of all is Manchin’s attempt to redeem himself by promising that, even after opposing the “For the People Act,” he’ll still vote for the “John LewisJohn LewisHundreds in West Virginia protest Manchin's opposition to voting rights legislation Pelosi urges Democrats to pass voting rights bills: 'The clock is ticking on our democracy' Police come under scrutiny in Ocean City, Md., after viral videos of force on boardwalk MORE Voting Rights Act.” Bullpucky! Manchin must know he’ll never have a chance to cast that vote, because Republicans will filibuster the John Lewis Act, too. Just like they scuttled the Jan. 6 truth commission.

Manchin’s fond of defending his so-called “independence” by insisting that his only job is to represent the people of West Virginia. But that’s bullpucky, too. As a former senator told me this weekend: Yes, you’re elected to serve the people of your state, but once you take the oath of office, your primary obligation is to do what’s best for the country, even if it’s not popular in your home state.

A young senator from Massachusetts even wrote a book about eight senators who did risk their political careers by breaking with their party or home state voters in order to put their country first. Joe Manchin would never have made John F. Kennedy’s list of “Profiles in Courage.” But he might make another list.

Dante wrote that “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.” Denizens of Hades, move over and make room for Joe Manchin.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”