Will a man who voted to have Donald Trump removed from office turn around and campaign to get Trump another four years as president? Joe Manchin disappointed his Senate Republican friends by not crossing the aisle to vote for acquittal, not even on the ludicrous second article on obstruction. However, Manchin now tells Politico that he wants to let bygones be bygones.
Besides, Manchin notes, Trump tried his best to oust Manchin from office. Now … they’re even?
“I don’t rule anything out. I really don’t rule anything out,” Manchin said in an interview in his office amid a series of attacks from the president. “I’m always going to be for what’s best for my country. Everybody can change. Maybe the president will change, you know? Maybe that uniter will come out, versus the divider.”
While it may defy logic that Manchin could support a president he voted to kick out of office, Manchin sees things differently. Trump did everything he could to defeat Manchin in 2018 and Manchin forgave him a week later. It might take Trump longer to forget Manchin’s vote, but the third-term senator is hopeful as always.
“It’s not different when he wanted to have lunch the week after I was elected. And he said: ‘I knew we couldn’t beat you.’ And I said: ‘it wasn’t for lack of trying.’ Boom, it’s over, let it go. I did. I’m asking him to do the same thing I did,” Manchin said. “He tried to remove me.”
So … does that make Manchin’s removal vote just payback? It’s tough to take it seriously as a principled decision after Manchin’s comments above. Impeachment and removal are meant for only the most serious cases in which a president is manifestly unfit for office after the commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It was most certainly not meant to settle partisan scores or to act as a substitute for a parliamentary vote of no confidence. Any Senator who votes to remove a president either has made the determination that the incumbent shouldn’t be president at all, or that senator has abused his office for his own personal or partisan purposes.
Manchin then goes on to make it worse:
Yet by the State of the Union address last week, a day before the impeachment vote, Manchin had made his decision. And Trump’s partisan performance didn’t help make the president’s case.
“I saw the State of the Union, and I said: ‘It’s not who we are.’ There’s so many good things that we can do better,” Manchin said.
Oh, please. State of the Union addresses are always partisan affairs, which is why opposition parties demand an official response to them. No one tried to impeach Barack Obama for telling Republicans “I won — twice” in his 2015 SOTU, to take just one example. If a partisan speech to Congress made one unfit for office, no one could run for re-election on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. This is an absurd rationalization, and it’s worse as a precedent going forward as well. Manchin should be embarrassed to make this argument.
He should be equally embarrassed to suggest he might endorse Trump in 2020, especially because of its nakedly self-interested position. He’s not endorsing Trump to get another four years of a president he just voted to remove. Manchin is talking about endorsing Trump to keep his own political career viable in 2024. Manchin knows that West Virginia voters will be irate over that vote because they overwhelmingly support Trump.
All this posturing does is to serve Manchin’s desire to eat his cake and have it too. He voted with Chuck Schumer to remove Trump based on rank partisanship, and now he wants to play footsie with Trump to make himself look more bipartisan for his deep-red Republican constituents back home. This is as far from “principled” as it gets.