Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Senate's most conservative Democrat, is perhaps best known for the campaign commercials that helped get him elected. In 2010, about a month before the election, Manchin aired a spot featuring him carrying a rifle and literally shooting a hole through a cap-and-trade bill. The ad touts Manchin's endorsement from the NRA, which has given him an "A" rating.
With this background in mind, the senator's comments on msnbc this morning were unexpected. "[I]t's time to move beyond rhetoric" on gun policy, Manchin said. "[T]his has changed the dialogue, and it should move beyond dialogue. We need action."
For those who can't watch clips online, Manchin, quite unexpectedly, said, "Anyone saying they don't want to talk and sit down and have that type of discussion is wrong," adding that he thinks NRA officials would be willing to "sit down and move in a responsible manner."
"Seeing the massacre of so many innocent children has changed everything," he said. "Everything has to be on the table." [...]"I'm a proud outdoors-man and huntsman, like many Americans, and I like shooting, but this doesn't make sense," Manchin said. "I don't know anyone in the sporting and hunting arena who goes out with an assault rifle; I don't know anyone who needs 30 rounds in the clip to go hunting."
Did Friday's massacre change the nature of the public debate? Manchin's comments offer compelling evidence that it did. It's one thing for a center-left senator from a "blue" state to talk like this in the wake of a tragedy; it's something else altogether when an NRA ally from West Virginia echoes the sentiments.