Republican presidential nominees have built their brand on being loudmouths attacking “political correctness,” Obamacare and almost any other hallmark of liberal American politics that occurs to them. But on the subject of Flint, Mich. and the continuing scandal that a Republican governor is facing there, they’ve remained very quiet.
Ben Carson, the noted pyramid theorist and Republican nominee, managed to blame everybody except Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder: “The people deserve better from their local elected officials, but the federal bureaucracy is not innocent in this as well. Reports show that the Environmental Protection Agency knew well beforehand about the lack of corrosion controls in the city’s water supply, but was either unwilling or unable to address the issue.”
Even Donald Trump, this cycle’s loudest mouth who likes to kick out silent protesters from his campaign rallies, was decidedly cool about passing judgement on Snyder. “A thing like that shouldn’t happen but,” he said, “I don’t want to comment on that.”
Notoriously thirsty Republican presidential nominee Marco Rubio‘s position on the water crisis is “a systemic and ugly breakdown at the local and state level. The governor has acknowledged that.” This was after he infamously told the press in a non-answer that the crisis was “just not an issue we’ve been frankly fully briefed or apprised of…in terms of the role the governor has played and the state has played in Michigan on these sorts of issues.” At least Rubio seems consistent in assuming that the federal government should do nothing for any of its citizens.
Ted Cruz was the only notable Republican candidate to articulate a clear position — well, relatively clear. “What’s happened in Flint, Mich. is an absolute travesty,” said Cruz during a press conference. “It is a failure at every level of government, a failure of the city officials, a failure of the county officials, and the men and women of Michigan have been betrayed.” Cruz probably knew he couldn’t blame President Obama, political correctness, or “the establishment” for a crisis presided over by a Republican governor. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try. After all, his fellow Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin managed to blame her son’s violent behavior, a symptom of PTSD we’re told, on Obama.
Flint has seen better days. In 1960, it was the second-largest city in Michigan, with a population of nearly 200,000. The local economy was based on manufacturing, much of it in the form of General Motors, the main employer in the city. The city began its decline as a result of deindustrialization that created the American Rust Belt in the 1970s. Globalization, outsourcing of jobs, urban decay and poverty all contributed to Flint and the wider region’s decline. The fatal city council decision to change the source of the city’s water supply to the Flint River was simply another step in the decline of this city.
“I thought it was one of those Onion articles,” said Flint resident Rhonda Kelso to Mother Jones, referring to officials who toasted to the change. “We already knew the Flint River was toxic waste.”
Among many failures, officials refused to test the pipes that delivered the tainted water to Flint residents, ignoring red flags from environmental officials’ warnings of lead and E. coli to the city council allowing GM to change its factories’ water supply from the Flint River after finding rust spots on newly machined parts. The city instead opted for stop-gap measures, such as installing additional filters in water fountains at the local university and using a cancer-causing chemical to treat tainted water.
As Flint’s health crisis continues to dominate the news cycle, the Republicans nominees may have to re-evaluate their positions on Snyder’s responsibility. But for now, the word is mum.
Photo: Michigan National Guard members help to distribute water to a line of residents in their cars in Flint, Michigan January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook