A relatively quick hit for Sunday evening comes to us from West Virginia. As we’ve covered on a number of occasions, formerly staunch Second Amendment advocate Senator Joe Manchin has apparently experienced some sort of “revelation” after the Newtown shootings, and has been in back room talks regarding at least some forms of new gun control legislation on the federal level. This has attracted an understandable amount of controversy with the generally conservative residents of his state and a matching amount of attention from the media. But for some reason, during a recent interview with the local paper, the topic never even came up.
Editor’s note: This question and answer session was permitted under the condition that The Journal would not ask questions regarding gun control legislation or the Second Amendment, as requested by the senator’s staff.
I only caught wind of this story when I saw it at Outside the Beltway. Doug Mataconis wasn’t impressed with the Senator’s tactics regarding media management.
The stipulation, though, strikes me as problematic. The few people who have commented on the article so far seem to be reacting quite negatively to it. I can understand why the Senator would want to avoid questions about gun control, though. He’s a pro-gun Senator from a pro-gun state who is part of a party that is pushing a gun control agenda. He is also rumored to be part of a bipartisan group of Senators talking behind the scenes about a compromise on universal background checks. He doesn’t want to be put on the spot. It’s not very honorable to put a condition like this on an interview, but it is understandable. What I don’t understand is why the newspaper would agree to these terms.
I’m a bit curious about that myself, but it’s not without precedent. When the Senator is ready to talk – about anything – that’s news for the local media market. If the choice is between getting the interview with the editorial board and having a topic put off limits or not getting the interview at all, there are times when they’ll agree to the restriction. But given what a hot topic this is across the country, and particularly in West Virginia, the paper doesn’t serve their subscribers very well by doing this. And the Senator himself isn’t doing any favors to his constituents by not addressing their valid concerns on a pertinent issue of the day.
The cone of silence routine generally doesn’t work very well for elected officials, but in Manchin’s case it might last a bit longer than it would for others. He first took office via a special election in 2010 and then was elected to a full term just last year. He’s not going to have to stand against the wheel again until 2018, so he may feel he’s got plenty of time to either clean this up or hope that the voters have short memories. I wouldn’t bet on the latter, though.