Last week West Virginia's Senator Joe Manchin took the lead in this year's "dumbest statement by a Democrat" competition. (Donald Trump has already won the award on the Republican side -- the only suspense surrounds which of many possible statements will win it for him.) Manchin was asked about the difficulty in preventing mass shootings like Orlando on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program:
"If a person is on the terrorist watch list like the gentleman, the shooter in Orlando, twice by the FBI, we were briefed yesterday about what happened but that man was brought in twice. They did everything they could," Manchin said. "The FBI did everything they were supposed to do but there was no way to keep him on the nix list or keep him off the gun buy list. There was no way to do that. So can’t we say that if a person under suspicion, there should be a five-year period of time that we have to see if good behavior, if this person continues the same traits, maybe we could come to that type of an agreement. But due process is what's killing us right now."
Needless to say, Manchin's statement about "due process" was pounced upon by gun advocates and right-wingers. Their web sites, for instance, dominate the first few pages of the search engine results for "Joe Manchin" + "gun control" or "Joe Manchin" + "due process." (My personal favorite is from the Beckley Register-Herald: "Liberal left wants your guns; beware Manchin." Surprisingly, the Register-Herald is not an Ogden newspaper.)
Among those attacking Manchin's comment was our local representative, David McKinley:
McKinley also criticized those in Congress, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), for taking the stance that there’s “too much due process,” in the United States.
“I’m astounded at that. Due process, the Fifth (Amendment) and the Fourteenth Amendment are the very fundamentals of our American freedom.”
Supporting McKinley's and the Republican's point-of-view on this was the ACLU which noted the lack of safeguards built into the various lists:
Our nation’s watchlisting system is error-prone and unreliable because it uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place individuals on blacklists without a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names. . . .
The government contends that it can place Americans on the No Fly List who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime, on the basis of prediction that they nevertheless pose a threat (which is undefined) of conduct that the government concedes “may or may not occur.” Criteria like these guarantee a high risk of error and it is imperative that the watchlisting system include due process safeguards—which it does not. In the context of the No Fly List, for example, the government refuses to provide even Americans who know they are on the List with the full reasons for the placement, the basis for those reasons, and a hearing before a neutral decision-maker.
McKinley's statements mimic much of the right-wing echo chamber about "due process" and the regulation of firearms. Given their outrage over Manchin's statement, you would think that Representative McKinley and his fellow Republicans would have a long history of attempts to change these lists to insure due process?
Hardly. The no-fly list has been in place since shortly after 9-11. Not surprisingly, I could not find a single effort by Republicans in the past 15 years to address its problems. I think that it's obvious that their sudden interest in defending due process has nothing to do with defending individual rights and everything to do with finding a rational to defend the NRA. Their fake outrage looks a little hollow.
Maybe I'm wrong about Representative McKinley. Perhaps he does have a strong and unwavering commitment to due process. If so, why doesn't he join the West Virginia ACLU or get involved with the Northern Panhandle chapter? Just a thought.