January 10, 2016

A true statesman: Manchin’s across the aisle mentality needed in today’s political climate | Clarksburg Exponent Telegram

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has sometimes drawn the ire of both political parties because of his stances on various issues.

Not known as a consistent party-line voter, Manchin has an independent sense of seeking out the best information before rendering his vote. Sometimes he votes with his Democratic Party; sometimes he shows a more conservative edge. But always he stands ready to explain his view and work toward compromise.

And while that has led to some criticism, ultimately we believe that Manchin has earned more respect — and success — than many current or past lawmakers because of his willingness to stand up for what he believes is best for the citizens of West Virginia and the United States.

Following in the footsteps of his legendary predecessor in the Senate, the late Robert C. Byrd, Manchin has been a staunch defender of the Constitution and its protections of the three branches of government and their roles.

So it is of little surprise that he opposes many of the executive orders President Barack Obama has chosen to utilize, including the most recent on gun control.

Agreeing with the president’s concerns and frustrations to a point, Manchin still believes the best approach would have been to hammer out bipartisan legislation instead of “going it alone,” as the president has done.

But in today’s 24/7 news cycle and need for instant answers and gratification, the hard work that is the legislative process that formed this great country is unfortunately sometimes lost to what grabs the most attention, even if the actions eventually are shown to have little positive effect.

Manchin, because of his past role as governor of West Virginia, understands the frustrations of not being able to get the needed votes for bills he believes would make a difference.

But he has never lost faith in the system, relying on keen intellect, good advisers and the wealth of political knowledge gleaned from a long public service and business career to work toward compromise.

In meeting with The Exponent Telegram Editorial Board this past week, Manchin emphasized that he wants to find ways “to get things done,” but in the proper format outlined by law and precedent.

He also showed a willingness to change, citing his past positions on drug problems as an example of “getting it wrong,” but then working to “get it right.”
“We have to learn by our mistakes,” Manchin said. “(Sometimes that’s the) biggest problem we have in public life.

“But if you can’t change your mind, you can’t change anything.”

He said leaders must be willing to listen and change if new information shows a better way.

“How does it hurt me politically if you try to do the right thing?” Manchin said. “They shouldn’t keep me in power if I try to defend a bad decision.”

West Virginia’s senior senator admitted that the state’s and nation’s drug-fighting policies haven’t worked and a new approach, emphasizing treatment for first-time offenders, is needed.

Likewise, he said working with younger people to help restore hope, especially in the drug-ridden, economically torn southern coalfields, is critical to breaking the chains of poverty that permeate areas of the state.

He also shared tremendous insight into the state and nation’s energy strengths and issues, providing a mix of business, environmental and political knowledge that should be heeded by other national leaders.

As for the Mountain State, he believes leaders should partner with Ohio and Pennsylvania to develop an “energy hub” to transport natural gas to other regions while also building up the states’ own industrial bases.

And when it comes to energy policy, we believe Manchin has it right: A common-sense approach that allows the U.S. to remain competitive with other countries while it works to find more environmentally safe practices.

The nation can ill-afford to rush to unproven technology, putting the greatest nation in the world at risk should our power grid fail because attempts to improve the environment have weakened the supply chain.

A more deliberate approach is needed, and Manchin has tremendous knowledge on how to make it work, balancing the needs of the country with the aspirations of leaving our youth and all children of the future a cleaner planet on which to build further success.

But that can only take place if lawmakers work toward common ground, not scorched earth. The venom that has reared its ugly head time and again in Washington, D.C., and across the country is not healthy.

We can agree to disagree, but we must learn to value each other’s views and opinions. We must value each other’s lives and show compassion and caring.

Manchin has shown the way time and time again. He has demonstrated a degree of statesmanship that harkens back to a day when government was focused on the greater good, regardless of political affiliation.

Sen. Manchin exemplifies the type of leadership needed to return this nation to high esteem, as well as the level of greatness we’ve come to know as the American way.

West Virginians should be proud to call him our own. 

By:  Editorial