Monday, December 20, 2021

Literary Corner: Wit's End

Drawing by Dick Wright/Daily World.

Sonnet: The Living Crap
by Senator Joseph Manchin III

I’m not blaming anybody. I knew
where they were, and I knew what they
could and could not do. They just
never realized it, because they
figured surely, dear God, we can move
one person, surely we can badger and
beat one person up, surely we can get
enough protesters to make that person
uncomfortable enough they’ll just say,
“I’ll go for anything. Just quit.”
Well guess what, I’m from West Virginia.
I’m not where they’re from and they can
just beat the living crap out of people
and think they’ll be submissive.

You'll never beat the living crap out of Senator Joseph Manchin III of West Virginia, because there's just too much of it.

"Wit's End" sounds like some backcountry setting for a cozy murder mystery. "Somebody's reporting a body up at Wit's End, Chief. In a—peculiar condition."

It's funny Manchin should be thinking of himself as getting beaten up when what he's actually been subjected to is relentless coddling, flattery, and a parade of tempting offers, for himself and his constituents. That seems to have come to an end starting on Tuesday, when according to press secretary Jen Psaki he finally managed to tell Biden what he allegedly wanted:

Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities. While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all.

Then on Thursday after a phone conversation with Manchin the president announced his belief that "we will bridge our differences and advance the Build Back Better program", and on Sunday morning he went on TV:

“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t,” Manchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.” Bret Baier, the Fox News anchor, asked Manchin if this was a definitive no. “This is a no on this legislation,” Manchin replied.

(John Cassidy at The New Yorker reports that he had his office call Biden's office half an hour before the interview and then refused to personally take a call from them.)

Which is what prompted the badgering and beating, such as it was: Psaki issuing her statement accusing him of bad faith

If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.

and budget committee chairman Bernie Sanders and majority leader Chuck Schumer to plan a vote on BBB shortly after New Year, Sanders commenting,

“We've been dealing with Mr. Manchin for month after month after month. But if he doesn't have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world.”

Leading to their victim's cry of anguish.

Which is the thing that's actually making me a little optimistic, and here's why: in calling out the press secretary for bullying him, Manchin has revealed that he is, in fact, a big fat bully; a soft-spoken one but a bully nevertheless. He's been enjoying torturing Sanders and Schumer and Biden and watching them humble themselves before him so much he didn't want to give it up, ever.

And in publicly running out of patience with him, Sanders and Schumer have done just the thing you're supposed to do with a bully: show him some resistance; show him he's not your friend any more. Chait is right, he's negotiating, or as I've said before playing position, and he tells us he's "not blaming anybody", though he obviously is, because he doesn't want to be cut off. I think he may well fold.

Update: talks to continue.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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