Joe Manchin’s Concrete Airplane

The Captain of Compromise — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

Dear President Biden,

Last night, Joe Manchin wrote an op-ed saying that compromise in the Senate is still possible under the current filibuster rules, and that he’s committed to crafting bipartisan legislation the whole nation might support.

To my mind, that is like suggesting we build a concrete airplane to the future, but Manchin says it can be done. He says he see the way forward. So here’s my humble suggestion: Hire him, very publicly, as your pilot. In fact, you should go even further. Hire Joe Manchin as your legislative pilot, and book his whole family tickets in First Class for the maiden flight. Make this the one issue Joe Manchin is remembered for by history.

For the life of me, I do not see how anyone could craft a bill on anything in 2021 (infrastructure, voting rights, gun legislation, taxes, et al.) wherein you’d pull ten Republicans to the table without losing Democrats along the way — but Joe Manchin says it’s possible.

So. Give. Him. The. Job.

Invite Senator Manchin to the White House today. Have Jen Psaki announce it as a “Summit of the Regular Joes,” or some such pithy, headline-friendly nickname. Have her tell the gallery that there will be statements by the President and his Legislative Pilot after their huddle in the Oval Office. Make sure to have that meeting done by 5PM, so it can lead the Evening News, and then talk it up every single chance you get for the rest of the day.

Once you’ve got him alone, tell Joe how important infrastructure really is to you. Tell him how important it is to America, particularly the people of West Virginia. Tell him that you admire his commitment to the spirit of compromise in our divided, partisan times. Tell Manchin that you want to work across the aisle, and find common ground with Republicans, too, just like him. Butter him up good by mentioning how important it is to you, personally, to see new investments in his state, particularly after West Virginia was given a D on their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Tell him how much you want to see that change.

Then ask him how long he would need to pull together this grand coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.

One month? Two months? How about six?

At that point, when he starts to squirm with the realization that he’s going to have to do more than write an op-ed to bring in this new day of bipartisanship to the nation, slip in the knife. Tell him that you’ll give him seven full months to bring this baby home. Tell him he’s got until November to build that concrete plane.

Tell him that you’re with him 100% of the way, and that you know he is the man for the job, the man of the moment, the man who has been called by history to heal the nation.

Tell him you’ll expect a solid, coalition bill by November of 2021, and that you don’t care how he does it. Tell him you’d support his bill if it holds all fifty Democrats together, and brings ten willing Republicans on-board. Tell him you’re with him if it’s 30 Republicans and 30 Democrats. Hell, tell him that you’re with him if he can make it 50 Republicans and ten Democrats. Tell him that if he gets a bill to the floor by Veterans Day, that you’ll wrap your arms around it and make sure it becomes law.

But also make sure he understands that if this project never gets off the runway, that you’re gonna do the $1.9 trillion American Jobs Act that is currently on the table, and that you’ll do it through reconciliation before Thanksgiving. Make sure he understands how much of a shame it would be if there wasn’t enough time to get the money in there for Wheeling, or Harpers Ferry, or Morgantown. But then remind him that you know none of that would ever come to pass, because Joe Manchin is the man with a plan.

Then march him out to the Rose Garden and tell the press that The Regular Joe Summit was a great success, and from here on out, Joe Manchin will be running point for the President’s vision. Wrap Joe Manchin so tightly into owning the leadership of this thing that either the success — or the failure — will land squarely in his lap.

End the presser with a good sound bite, like: “If Joe Manchin can’t get this legislation through the Senate, then no one can!”

Slap him on the back when you say it. Hell, grab his hand and lift it triumphantly over your head. Make his own this like it’s his own damn skin.

So far, President Biden, you’ve indicated that you’ve got a lot more FDR in you than most of us every believed possible, and that’s a great thing. But now — given the box that the Senator from West Virginia just put you in with his commitment to the filibuster, come hell or high water — it’s time for you to show us your inner LBJ.

Joe Manchin just told us he could build us a concrete airplane and make it fly, so let him soar — or crash — with that conviction.

Your Friend Mike

Once a history teacher in Brooklyn, Mike took a sabbatical in 2004 to travel through Latin America. He never returned. He lives and works in Guatemala.