You could see it in the faces of the people lining the streets of Flint in the rain, all of them waiting for just a glimpse of the presidential motorcade delivering President Barack Obama to their city to let them know up close and in person that “I got your back.” The hope and joy that shone on so many black faces all along the motorcade route that the nation’s first African American president had heard their cries and had come to their city to let them know that Flint really does matter to him.
Maybe it was the personal letter written to the President from the 8-year-old child the President referred to as ‘Little Miss Flint’ that prompted him to finally view the scene of the crime himself. Then again, maybe this visit was something he had been planning for awhile now, but just hadn’t been able to manage.
What matters is that the President of the United States came to Flint, just in case there is anyone remaining who still doesn’t quite grasp the magnitude of all this. Because government screw ups like this simply don’t happen on a regular basis, and government incompetence like this is the sort of stuff that spawns text books designed to teach future generations about how things can go so unbelievably wrong.
But if Gov. Snyder had been doing his job, there’s really no reason why President Obama should have had to make this trip. Sure, it was great to have the Big Dog in town, and to have all that excitement is a real rush. But it’s not like the man isn’t busy, even as he approaches lame duck status.
Just to be clear, the primary reason why President Obama had to come to Michigan on Wednesday was because of how poorly Gov. Snyder has handled this entire situation from beginning to, well, yesterday.
Granted, it’s bad enough that the Flint water crisis happened at all. But that crisis alone is not what brought President Obama to Flint. What brought the president to Flint was the fact that the crisis is ongoing, will be ongoing for a number of years, and Gov. Snyder has completely lost the trust of the people of Flint. The people whom he never even bothered to address directly until the President’s visit to Northwestern High School yesterday where he was granted the distinct honor of being the only public official at the event to be booed. Loudly. When Gov. Snyder tried to apologize, telling the angry crowd that government had let them down (still not able to take responsibility) the crowd set him straight, yelling back that “You let us down!”
It’s true that the governor has released a 75-page plan for Flint in March, and to his credit there are some good things in that plan. There really are. But what the people of Flint needed to see from their state’s top elected official was immediate action on their behalf, not the deflection of blame and the hiring of PR firms. And they needed their governor to come directly to them, face-to-face. Instead, Snyder allowed the crisis to gwt even further out of hand and the anger to fester until it boiled over on Wednesday.
But just as telling as the explosive anger of the crowd inside Northwestern High School, and the near-deafening volume of all that booing, was the ice-cold reception he received from President Obama Wednesday morning as he stepped down from Air Force One and greeted the dignitaries assembled to meet him on the tarmac. Obama seemed to have a kind word and a smile, or even an embrace or warm pat on the shoulder, for everyone except Snyder, whom he barely seemed to acknowledge except as a courtesy recognizing his tolerated existence. Maybe it had something to do with Snyder saying last week from Europe that he doubted he would have time to meet with the president because he had a “pretty full schedule.”
From the New York Times:
In a rare overture by a Republican governor to the Democratic leader, Mr. Snyder said on Monday that he had made a formal request for a meeting with the president, hoping to sit down with Mr. Obama during his visit to Flint planned for Wednesday.
Mr. Snyder’s comments reversed a statement he made last week during a trip to Europe when he was asked whether he would meet with Mr. Obama. In response, the governor appeared to give the president the brushoff.
“I’ve got a pretty full schedule next week,” Mr. Snyder told The Detroit News by telephone from Zurich, adding that he did not plan on being in Flint on Wednesday.
On Monday, Mr. Snyder seemed eager to amend those remarks, saying that he had made a request to Karen Weaver, the mayor of Flint, to meet with her and Mr. Obama.
“What I have done, when I did get it confirmed the president was coming, is we’ve been in ongoing dialogue and I’ve made a formal request for a meeting with the mayor and the president,” Mr. Snyder said.
So…obviously something in those previously made plans kinda…changed. I’m guessing it’s because Obama would never have even had to come to Flint in the first place if Gov. Snyder had been doing his job. So when the President decides he has to make a special trip to Michigan to fill in where the Governor has been lacking, it’s probably not a good idea to be missing in action.