No Snyder administration officials will be held accountable. And that’s exactly the problem.
At long last, after activists and elected officials and even bloggers like LOLGOP and I have been sounding the alarm about the poisoning of Flint residents with lead in their drinking water, the story has finally hit the national stage. In the past week, in addition to the Michigan media outlets who have been doing yeoman’s work exposing the role Snyder administration officials played in this human tragedy, national media groups have been reporting the story. The Rachel Maddow Show has run numerous segments including a recent interview with ACLU investigative journalist Curt Guyette. The New York Times ran a piece titled “Flint Wants Safe Water, and Someone to Answer for Its Crisis”. Forbes ran a piece titled “What You Need To Know About Lead Poisoning – Flint Edition”. Salon ran a piece titled “When money matters more than lives: The poisonous cost of austerity in Flint, Michigan “. The Atlantic ran a piece titled “What Did the Governor Know About Flint’s Water, and When Did He Know It?”.
The problem is that there almost no chance at all that anyone will go to prison for this. To ensure that’s true, the Snyder administration is in full PR mode. Last Friday, former Snyder Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore, normally a bulldog who has no problem going on the attack when he feels the need, took a break from his new government lobbying job to go on WJR to tell the world just how torn up he is about all of this. Muchmore, who ran multiple lobby groups in the past, recently left the Snyder administration to take a high-paid government lobbyist position. Recently uncovered emails show that he was warning Snyder administration officials that Flint residents were being “blown off” as early as last July. However, in his interview, he portrays the Snyder administration as being there all along to help Flint residents despite having ignored their plight for months before taking action. But finding out who was responsible shouldn’t be part of the process, according to Muchmore:
It’s kinda like everything else in politics or government, the natural tendency of people is to look for somebody to blame. I just don’t think it does much good to do that.
After the Snyder administration essentially demonized Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards as an out-of-state interloper when he worked to expose the the lead problem in Flint, Muchmore lauds him as if his former colleagues consider him some sort of hero. You can listen to the entire revisionist history from Muchmore here:
If anyone were going to be thrown under the bus by the Snyder administration to protect the governor from being held accountable, that person would probably be Dan Wyant, the former head of the Department of Environmental Quality who was fired after the story got to hot. If you want to see just how inept this man is, take a look at the interview he did with Al Jazeera recently. He could not possibly look more incompetent:
But Wyant is gone and unlikely to face the music for the human-made disaster he helped create.
Another person who might be the fall-guy for the state’s poisoning of Flint residents is Howard Croft, the former head of the Department of Public Works in Flint who was in charge as the slow-motion catastrophe unwound. Here’s Curt Guyette talking about how Croft was implementing the will of the Snyder administration:
Back in September I interviewed Howard Croft, the former director of Public Works for the City of Flint. At that time they were still telling the lie that Flint was forced to use the river because Detroit kicked them off. Mr Croft, in an interview, reiterated that. I had a document from a former Emergency Manager showing that he rejected an offer from Detroit that would have kept Flint getting clean, safe water. When confronted with that, he caved in and said, “Well, we looked at the situation and an evaluation was made by the state to use the river because it was cheaper.” I said, “Did it go all the way up to the governor?” and he said, “Yes.”
Croft, too, is gone, having resigned his position back in November.
Watch the full Maddow interview with Guyette here:
Meanwhile, the Snyder administration is working to scrub any evidence that it has been cavalier in its approach to Flint’s ongoing health crisis. A state government page titled, “Hey Flint, It Is Safe to Wash” once had this fun, cheerful graphic letting Flint parents know it is A-OK to bathe their children in lead-contaminated water:
That graphic has since been removed but the web page continues to tell parents bathing in contaminated water is just fine. “Lead in bath water will not soak into your skin fast or at high levels,” it says. “Just don’t let kids drink the bath water when they play in the tub.” If you were a parent of an infant in Flint, would YOU bathe your child in lead-tainted water?
Given that the city is now under a state of emergency, you would think that the state would be making sure that Flint residents were getting access to as much clean water as they needed. You would be wrong:
Michigan has declared the Flint water crisis an emergency — but the state has not yet provided bottled water even though lead levels are still high.
Churches and other organizations have been left to fill the gap. A local sheriff who began distributing filters on his own discovered two out of three homes visited did not have them yet.
The Rev. Bobby Jackson of the Mission of Hope has handed out hundreds of bottles of free water to people coming from all over Flint on bikes and on foot because they can’t afford to buy their own.
“It’s all come from donations,” he told NBC News. […]
On Thursday, Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell mobilized reserve deputies and people sentenced to community service and dispatched them to hand out filters and bottled water.
His teams managed to visit 200 homes; two-thirds had no filters, he reported.
As another part of their public relations effort to make themselves look heroic, Snyder administration officials are now attempting to demonize protesters to deflect attention from those calling on Gov. Snyder to tell us what he knew and when and why it took so damn long for him to take action. Dave Murray, spokesman for Gov. Snyder, told the Detroit Free Press how disappointed he is that protesters aren’t being helpful:
“It’s disappointing that some groups would use such rhetoric and aren’t instead focused on joining the collaborative effort to make sure all Flint residents have access to safe clean water,” Snyder spokesman Dave Murray said Friday. “As Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said on Thursday, this is a partnership, and we’re looking at how we all can move Flint forward.”
What Murray failed to mention is that the protesters actually brought 800 cases of bottled water with them:
Gov. Snyder's spokesman calls out protesters for not "joining collaborative effort" failed to realize they brought 800 cases of H20 w/ them
— eks (@eschwarzkopf) January 9, 2016
Seems like they are being more helpful than the state itself.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon expressed his disgust at Murray’s accusation:
— Brandon Dillon (@BrandonDillon75) January 9, 2016
The sad reality is that, despite the multiple failures at nearly every level, it is highly unlikely that anyone in the Snyder administration will go to prison for this. They will simply blame others, many of whom have already fallen on their swords to protect Snyder himself, all the while castigating those attempting to make sure the truly responsible parties are held accountable. If anyone DOES get convicted, you can be sure it will be appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals and even the Michigan Supreme Court. Once the case gets there, these Republican-stacked, Snyder-appointed judicial bodies will simply give them a pass.
Because that’s how it works in Republican-dominated Michigan.
UPDATE: Just to be clear, when I say the “worst part”, I’m speaking about the political ramifications of this catastrophe. The worst part is, of course, that the people of Flint have been poisoned by their own government and will live with that public health “legacy” for decades to come.