During a speech to residents of Flint, Michigan, whose drinking water was contaminated with lead, President Obama appeared to partly blame “a preference for small government” for the crisis.
In a speech to about 1,000 residents, Obama urged them to resist assumptions that their children have been permanently harmed by consuming water with lead, and blamed “a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good, no matter what.” He didn’t mention Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who addressed the audience earlier and professes the virtues of smaller government. Snyder has borne much of the blame for the contamination.
“I do not believe that anybody consciously wanted to hurt the people in Flint, and this is not the place to sort every screw-up that resulted in contaminated water,” Obama said. “This myth that government is always the enemy — that forgets that our government is us, that it’s an extension of us, ourselves. That attitude is as corrosive to democracy as the stuff that resulted in lead in your water.”
Prior to Obama’s remarks, Snyder was booed as he publicly apologized to the same audience for the mishaps that led to the contamination. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on April 20 charged two state officials and one city official with felonies related to the contamination.
The president drank filtered water from Flint’s taps at least twice during his visit, including in the middle of his speech when he asked for a glass of water. Obama, Snyder and the city’s mayor, Karen Weaver, received a briefing on the lead crisis from federal officials. Obama then met with afflicted families, including a girl who wrote him to request the visit.
“We’ve got a short-term challenge, which is water,” Obama said after the briefing. “But we’ve also got a long-term challenge, which is to make sure the City of Flint can prosper going forward.”
This is a political talking point not based in reality. The fact is, it was incompetence, not ideology that led to the water crisis. Two state managers from the Department of Environmental Quality and a Flint water official have been indicted on charges of misconduct, neglect of duty and conspiracy to tamper with evidence. If you can find an ideological bent to the reasons for the crisis, I wish you luck.
A desire for small government had absolutely nothing to do with the crisis. Governor Snyder did not send his environmental people to Flint on a mission to shrink government. They were there to address the problem. Why they lied and tried to cover up test results probably has more to do with covering their asses than politics.
Obama set up another one of his tiresome straw men when he suggested that his opponents have claimed that “less government is the highest good, no matter what.” It’s a lie that a conservative has ever said “no matter what” when talking about shrinking government’s size. There are exceptions to everything and it’s typical Obama bombast to make himself look like the reasonable one while he paints his opponents as unbalanced crazies.
It is shameful that the president is using this crisis as an opportunity to bash his political opponents and advance his pet theories about big government.