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“Republicans Could Not Have Done Anything Wrong”: Rubio Inexplicably Applauds Snyder’s Handling Of Flint Scandal

In recent months, the Republican presidential field hasn’t paid a whole of attention to the crisis in Flint, Michigan. In mid-January, with the national spotlight shining on the man-made disaster, Marco Rubio was asked for his perspective – and he had no idea what the reporter was talking about.

Six weeks later, the topic came up in last night’s debate, held in Detroit, where Fox News’ Bret Baier reminded the GOP candidates that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton “have both been to Flint. They are both running ads in this state focusing on that, focusing on supporting Flint and fixing the problems, showing images of people in Flint thankful that they’re there.”

The co-moderator asked Rubio, “Without getting into the political blame game here, where are the national Republicans’ plans on infrastructure and solving problems like this? If you talk to people in this state, they are really concerned about Flint on both sides of the aisle. So why haven’t GOP candidates done more or talked more about this?”

The Florida senator’s response was one of the evening’s more unsettling answers. Here’s his answer in its entirety.

“Well, I know I’ve talked about it, and others in our campaign have talked about it, and other candidates have talked about it, as well. What happened in Flint was a terrible thing. It was systemic breakdown at every level of government, at both the federal and partially the – both the state and partially at the federal level, as well.

“And by the way, the politicizing of it I think is unfair, because I don’t think that someone woke up one morning and said, ‘Let’s figure out how to poison the water system to hurt someone.’

“But accountability is important. I will say, I give the governor credit. He took responsibility for what happened. And he’s talked about people being held accountable and the need for change, with Governor Snyder.

“But here’s the point: This should not be a partisan issue. The way the Democrats have tried to turn this into a partisan issue, that somehow Republicans woke up in the morning and decided, ‘Oh, it’s a good idea to poison some kids with lead.’ It’s absurd. It’s outrageous. It isn’t true. All of us are outraged by what happened. And we should work together to solve it. And there is a proper role for the government to play at the federal level, in helping local communities to respond to a catastrophe of this kind, not just to deal with the people that have been impacted by it, but to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

Hmm. So, Flint was an accident; Rick Snyder deserves credit for his handling of the crisis; let’s be sure to blame the feds; and Democratic rhetoric is even more upsetting than the disaster itself. Got it.

New York’s Jon Chait wrote an important rejoinder: “Asked to avoid the blame game and offer specific solutions to urban-infrastructure problems, Rubio is unable. He conceives of the question entirely in partisan terms. He attacks the notion that Republicans consciously decided to poison children, thereby ruling out any possibility of government negligence as self-evidently preposterous. He has nothing resembling a specific idea on the issue, only the firm conviction that Republicans could not have done anything wrong.”

As unsettling as the debate exchange was, it offered real insights into how Rubio sees the world. Six weeks ago, the senator couldn’t be bothered to know what the Flint scandal was. Last night, he recognized the crisis, but only through an electoral prism. Rubio starts with the premise he finds ideologically satisfying – Republicans are correct and free of wrongdoing – and then works backwards … until he can find a way to condemn Democrats.

Rubio simply cannot stop thinking in partisan political terms. By all appearance, he doesn’t even know how. For all of the media’s assurances about Rubio being “whip smart,” the young senator simply lacks the wherewithal to consider policy questions in substantive ways.

The Republican was asked, “[W]here are the national Republicans’ plans on infrastructure and solving problems like this?” This prompts Rubio to reference the agreed-upon talking points; (1) Flint, sad; (2) Snyder, good; (3) Democrats, bad. The growing evidence of neglect, incompetence, and possibly criminal misdeeds surrounding the governor’s office? For Rubio, none of this matters.

The assembled audience applauded, but given the reality, they should have cringed.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 4, 2016

March 5, 2016 Posted by | Flint Water Crisis, Lead Poisoining, Marco Rubio, Rick Snyder | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unfit For GM Engines, OK For Children”: Rick Snyder’s Top Aides Knew Flint’s Water Was Unsafe More Than a Year Ago

In October 2014, General Motors informed the Michigan governor’s office that the Flint River’s heavily chlorinated water was rusting its car parts. The governor’s environmental-policy adviser, Valerie Brader, decided that water unfit for washing engines probably shouldn’t be ingested by children. More specifically: If the chlorine in the water could corrode car parts, it was probably also corroding Flint’s lead pipes. Governor Rick Snyder’s chief legal counsel, Mike Gadola, agreed, according to emails obtained by the Detroit News.

“To anyone who grew up in Flint as I did, the notion that I would be getting my drinking water from the Flint River is downright scary,” Gadola wrote in an email to the governor’s chief of staff and other top aides. “Too bad the (emergency manager) didn’t ask me what I thought, though I’m sure he heard it from plenty of others.”

Gadola went on to note that his mother still lived in Flint. “Nice to know she’s drinking water with elevated chlorine levels and fecal coliform,” he said. “I agree with Valerie (Brader). They should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control.”

It would be nearly a year before the city followed Brader’s advice.

Snyder himself was not copied on the email, and Brader told the News that she never shared her concerns with the executive personally. “I certainly was never in a meeting with him (Snyder), nor did I raise what I wrote in that email,” Brader said. “And to my knowledge, neither did Mike Gadola.”

The governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, told the paper that his office agreed with Brader’s assessment but was prevented from acting because of resistance from the Treasury Department and the legislature.

“Since we’re in charge, we can hardly ignore the people of Flint,” Muchmore wrote in an email to communications officials in the governor’s office and Treasury Department. “After all, if GM refuses to use the water in their plant and our own agencies are warning people not to drink it … we look pretty stupid hiding behind some financial statement.”

But Muchmore never asked the legislature for a supplemental spending bill to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water system, concluding that such a proposal would be “dead on arrival.”

Public-health officials believe that as many as 8,000 children in Flint ingested water with dangerously high levels of lead.

The emails are the latest in an ongoing series of publicly released messages from the governor’s office concerning the state’s handling of the water crisis in Flint. Prior emails showed that government workers in Flint were provided bottled water more than a year before it was given to regular citizens.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 26, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Flint Water Crisis, Lead Poisoining, Rick Snyder | , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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