Manchin Discusses Presidential Politics
Editor’s note: This is the final part of a two-part series detailing a recent trip to Tyler County by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). This article discusses presidential politics.
By MILES LAYTON
MIDDLEBOURNE – Linda Baker wore a red, white a blue blouse to attend U.S. Senator Manchin’s recent visit to the Tyler County Senior Center. She sat quietly through most of the Democratic Senator’s speech that has long been a part of his Commensense Connections tour across the state. Ever since the Marion County politician was elected to the Senate, Manchin has been listening to constituents and taking their questions.
Baker, 74, of Middlebourne peppered the state’s longtime leader about presidential politics Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“Hillary like every other candidate has lots of flaws,” Manchin said. “We all do, but there’s no one who has been vetted like she has.”
Baker broke in by saying, “I don’t think anyone who is under investigation (Clinton) by the FBI should be allowed to run.”
The FBI is investigating whether Clinton violated federal law by conducting affairs via email that was stored on a home brewed server during her term as Secretary of State.
“I’ve heard that. And you know what? It might be the Achilles heel. It could be the Achilles heel if there is anything to it,” Manchin said. “But as an American, you are still innocent until proven guilty and there have been no charges brought. An investigation…”
Baker broke in, “There should have been!”
Manchin noted that Trump might also be under investigation. In recent months, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been under scrutiny for Trump University a for-profit school that is at the center of two pending class-action lawsuits. Trump’s attorneys reject allegations that his university amounted to a racketeering operation.
Regarding presidential politics and the law, Manchin said, “Here’s the thing. Whatever happens, happens. Whatever it is, it is. The law is the law. The one thing about this country…”
Baker interjected, “It’s like she is above the law!”
Neither Clinton nor Trump has been charged with any crimes.
Manchin wore a white shirt with a blazer, no tie and was very relaxed as he talked about West Virginia values and Washington as he ate lunch with the group of senior citizens. He offered “full disclosure” about his relationship with the Clinton clan.
“I know (former President) Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton pretty well,” he said. “They have never lied to me. When I was governor, I used to call them and when I needed help here, they would do it. So I’ve had a relationship. I can only judge you or another person on how they’ve treated me and things I’ve needed for my state. So with that, I do have a better relationship with them.”
As to Trump, the Senator said he doesn’t know him much beyond a phone conversation they had years ago. Manchin said when he was governor, he had to try find a buyer after CSX Corporation made a decision to close the Greenbrier resort. Manchin said he didn’t want the place to close, so he contacted many potential buyers including Trump.
Manchin described his phone conversation with the billionaire casino owner.
“I’m calling you about a great property in West Virginia,” he said. “He asked, ‘what is it?’ I said it is the Greenbrier. Trump said ‘I know about the Greenbrier.’ He says, ‘is it in bankruptcy?’ I said ‘no.’ He says ‘call me when it is. Bye.’ As cold as that. It was a business deal.”
CSX placed the hotel in bankruptcy in 2009.Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice eventually bought the property and guaranteed all debts, resulting in dismissal of the bankruptcy.
But back to presidential politics. Manchin said he knows Bernie Sanders, a Democrat who recently ended his bid for president.
“Everything Bernie is telling you; it is coming from his heart,” he said. “He believes it. Bernie is a total committed socialist.”
Manchin explained that in a socialistic society, if a person has $100 and another person has $50 “at the end of the day, Bernie is going to make sure you both have $75. He don’t care how hard you worked to get a $100 or maybe not worked hard enough to get $100 he’s going to even it out. That’s about as simple as I can make it.”
Manchin continued to explain Sanders’ philosophy
“Everything Bernie has talked about is accurate and real,” he said. “There is a disparity 30 years of the working person basically being left behind. Things have happened. There is income inequality. Big businesses are getting bigger. Rich people are getting richer. All this is true.”
The Senator discussed how much Sanders’ programs would cost, which is another reason why he is supporting Hillary Clinton for president.
“If you look at every one of Bernie’s programs every thing he’s thrown out there costs $33 trillion dollars. Someone put a price tag to it,” he said. “If you look at the taxes Bernie wants to add on, it’s $13 trillion you are still another $20 trillion short. You can’t do it. It just doesn’t make it.”
Coal miners ‘out of work’
Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the state’s presidential primary in 2008.
Manchin endorsed Clinton then and appeared with her at campaign events in the state during that election cycle.
Going into this season’s presidential primary, Manchin advised Clinton to be aware of “how bad West Virginia is suffering.”
Manchin said prior to Clinton’s visit to Charleston before the May 10 primary election, he told her that the state has lost of a lot of mining mining jobs. Though competing market-driven nature of coal versus natural gas business share some of the blame for job losses, President Obama’s environmental policies have been harmful. Manchin has been an outspoken critic of the President’s clean air standards which have had a devastating effect not only on coal production, but emissions standards for coal-fired power plants.
“Barack Obama not only double-downed on us and threw a big blanket over us as far as regulations, it almost seemed like he was happy he did it,” Manchin said. “I said (to her), ‘We feel like a Vietnam returning veteran. We did what you asked to do. We went to war. And now you (the nation) treat us like a piece of crap. That’s what this state feels like.'” So I’ve been very brutally honest with her.”
Manchin said Clinton told him, “‘We’re not going to leave West Virginia behind. I know the people like I know Arkansas.’ She’s spent more time here than anybody. I said, ‘We’re fine. I’m going to support her. And then she makes that statement, ‘We’re going to coal miners and coal companies out of business.'”
Clinton remark’s about miners made her unpopular within the Mountain State .
“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country,” Clinton said before in Charleston before the May 10 state primary. “Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
Clinton said she was taken out of context and that her remarks were part of a larger conversation about assisting coal miners as the nation moves away fossil fuels.
Manchin defended Clinton.
“What she said was horrific,” the Senator said.
Baker asked Manchin if he would step away from his support for Clinton after what she said about miners.
Manchin said, “Let me tell you the rest of the story.” The Senator said after Clinton’s made those unpopular remarks, the “smart thing”, if he was political, would be to dismiss her but that’s not the kind of politician he is.
“If I’m your friend, I’m thinking why in the world would you say something like that? We talked and you never said anything like that before. Do you really feel that way. So I made a phone call.”
Manchin said he talked with former President Clinton.
“Mr. President, what in the world is going on?” he said. “Why would she (Hillary) make a statement like that? He said ‘Joe, she messed up. She made a mistake. She screwed up.'”
The Senator said Hillary Clinton called him the next day – Super Tuesday in March when a large number of states held their primaries.
“I said, ‘Hillary, listen. What you said was absolutely unbelievable and it is unacceptable. And if that is what you feel, then fine you go your way and I’ll go mine. I understand.’ She said, ‘Joe, no. I made a mistake. I misspoke.’ I said (to her), ‘I know how hard it is when you say something to say ‘I’m sorry, I made a mistake.’ Politicians don’t do that very often. I said to her ‘that cat is out of the bag it’s gone. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle.”
Later, Manchin receives a letter of apology from Hillary Clinton. The letter also states that she wanted to visit West Virginia places like Mingo and Logan counties that were not necessarily the most welcoming to the Clintons. Manchin said the candidate’s campaign staff advised her not to go, but she wanted to face the folks in that part of the state.
“She said, ‘I need to go face them,'” Manchin said of Clinton. “She said, ‘It was mistake (her comments about miners). That’s not who I am and I’ll go down there.’ She went down there and got booed, screamed at, booed. I got booed at everybody got booed at. I give her credit for going into the lion’s den. She didn’t have to do that.”
Manchin said, “Hillary, you know you’re not going to win West Virginia (in the primary). You’ll get beat maybe by 60-65 percent. She said, ‘If I get beat, I get beat. But if I become President, I’m coming back.’ She made me a commitment that she’ll come back here.”
The Senator said Charleston relies on assistance from federal funds to provide roads across the state and it is the same with many other amenities such as broadband Internet access without help from Washington, DC. Manchin said he asked Clinton to return to the state during the first 100 days as president.
He told her, “You make something happen here in West Virginia, I’ll stick with you. She said ‘I’ll make you that promise.'”
Manchin said if Trump wins, he’ll work with him too so as to do what’s best for the state.
“I have no problem with whoever the president is,” he said.
That said, “If Hillary Clinton wins, I’m the only one that’s going to talk to her because everyone else is running for the hills. If that hurts me politically, it hurts me. But if you elected me to put me in a position to help my state, I’ve got to do that. I can’t look at you and say, ‘Well, I couldn’t be for Hillary because I thought it might hurt me.’ That would definitely hurt (the state).”
Cork Bowen of Paden City asked Manchin if he had been vetted as a possible vice presidential pick. Media reports indicate Democrats might consider the centrist-Democrat as a running mate.
No Democrat has won the Mountain State since then-President Bill Clinton defeated Kansas Senator Bob Dole in 1996. Four years later in 2000, Gore wouldn’t have had to worry about hanging chads on the ballots in Florida if he had won West Virginia’s five electoral votes.
“I’m too conservative, too moderate for that,” Manchin said if he was considered as a vice presidential candidate.
Bowen said, “But you reach across the aisle better than anyone.”
Manchin said, “I can. I do that. Let me tell you this. If someone asks me what is wrong with Washington, I’ll tell you exactly what is wrong.”
When Baker answered, “There’s been too many people there for too many years,” the room erupted erupted in laughter.
Manchin explained Washington like this. He asked the senior citizens to remember the friends and associates they had while working. Manchin said people would greet each other as friends, but these same folks would “try to get you fired, talking to someone behind your back, raising money to use against you and doing everything possible to destroy your life. But yet, we’re all supposed to be the best of friends and try to work for the country.”
Manchin said, “Where I come from, they’ll kick your butt if you act like that.
The Senator said he refused to play that game. He wouldn’t raise money or campaign against colleagues he considers as friends, so that’s how he’s able to reach across the aisle to get stuff done.
“I told the Democrats, count me out,” he said. “I won’t raise one dollar against a Republican nor will I campaign against him. And there’s not one Republican in Congress who can say Joe Manchin is trying to defeat me. They all come to me. I’m the most co-sponsored, bipartisan person in the senate and it is because we have relationships.”