Joe Manchin might convince himself one day that he voted correctly in helping elevate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, but the optics of holding his decision to the very last click of the clock this past week exposed his calculated decision-making as a cover to protect his flanks in a challenging election year. It is a story that borrows from the poisonous politics of our day, politics that have made a mockery of our nation’s motto, E pluribus unum. But it also reflects poorly on the character of our state’s senior senator.

Certainly, to the victor go the spoils of war. But in the wake of this highly partisan confirmation battle lies major damage to democratic institutions — the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee and, now, the Supreme Court.

So, too, for what faith remained in government and an elected public servant because, in the end, Manchin played the politician and did what was best for Joe, not country.

Manchin — a conservative, red-state Democrat who crossed party lines to vote for President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch — announced on Friday that he would give a thumbs up for Kavanaugh, the president’s second and more contentious and widely unpopular court nominee.

Manchin was the last Democratic holdout. Others who, like Manchin, are facing tough if not impossible odds at regaining their seats in the Senate, all showed some pluck and voted “No” on the nomination.

Not Joe.

As recently as Thursday afternoon, Manchin remained undecided on the nomination after reviewing an FBI report scrutinizing multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.

He indicated on Friday, however, that his meeting with Kavanaugh as well as information contained in the FBI’s supplemental report helped ease concerns.

“Based on all the information I have available to me, I’ve found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist,” Manchin said in his Friday statement.

So, what we know about Manchin in his deliberations in this matter is this:

• He does not believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who came forward — with nothing to gain — to share her allegation of being sexually assaulted by the nominee 36 years ago when both were in high school. The senator can’t have it both ways on this. Dr. Ford is 100 percent certain that Brett Kavanaugh was her attacker. You either believe her or you do not.

• Manchin did not question the thoroughness or credibility of an FBI investigation that was restricted in its scope by the White House, an investigation in which agents were kept from questioning both Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh. Nor did our senator ask why the FBI agents were not allowed to talk with multiple corroborating witnesses — the answer to which seems obvious to us.

— Manchin did not seem concerned with Kavanaugh dodging questions about his excessive drinking habits as a teenager.

— Manchin apparently did not regard Kavanaugh’s tirade against the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee last week as evidence that the judge is temperamentally unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. We wonder if Manchin talked with any of the more than 2,400 law professors who signed on to a letter saying Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial restraint at that Senate hearing — behavior that would be disqualifying for any court nominee.

Well, we believe that Manchin did not have to consider any of that because a RealClearPolitics polling average has him leading his midterm opponent Patrick Morrisey by 9 percentage points. In our estimation, that was the incumbent senator’s concern, protecting the lead while playing defense.

That only one Republican — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — could find the temerity to vote against the nomination says all that we need to know about where the Republican Party is these days.

That only one Democrat voted for the nomination tells us another story — a regrettable one.

The Supreme Court is now tainted by the presence of an apparently angry, partisan judge. We would have asked Manchin to call for a more thorough vetting of Kavanaugh. We would have asked for more information. And we would have asked him to follow the truth wherever it led. This was a job interview and Kavanaugh needed to prove he belonged.

We did not get that. Courage deserted our senior senator.

History is the ultimate arbiter, and it is not always kind. If Sen. Manchin believes this vote is behind him, he has misjudged.

— The Register-Herald

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