In a press conference yesterday that followed a meeting with residents of Flint, Michigan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi threw cold water on Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s assertion that Democrats are “politicizing” the disaster.
Asked her opinion on the Thursday evening GOP debate (raw transcript here), Pelosi pointed out that the candidates had nothing else to say about Flint as their interactions devolved into a puerile free-for-all.
‘For the one fleeting second that they addressed the challenged to the conscience to our country Flint is, I think that was really an embarrassment. I think that today is one of the least political days I have spent. This isn’t about politicizing. This is about accountability, it’s about helping, it’s about healing, it’s about giving people hope and it’s about not underutilizing any resource to do that at every level.’
The Republicans held their debate in Detroit, a city that has nearly been destroyed by decades of predatory capitalism. Rather than discuss the issues faced by voters in the state, candidates engaged in an embarrassing display of mudslinging and personal attacks.
Rubio, the only candidate who even took a question about Flint, denied that the crisis was the result of intentional decisions by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, whom he defended.
‘I don’t think someone woke up one morning and said, ‘Let’s … poison someone,'” Rubio said. “I give the governor credit. He took responsibility.’
But emails obtained by local media outlets paint a different portrait — of an autocrat who ignored his own staff and all contrary information, who stonewalled efforts to fix the problem, who neutered the elected government of Flint with a series of ’emergency managers’ prioritizing profitability over public welfare, and who then tried to shift the blame back onto his victims. Snyder even withheld lead test results while deciding how to spin them.
Michigan residents are fed up with Snyder’s disastrous management style and have begun organizing a recall petition.
Following up their question about Rubio’s deflection and the lack of other debate responses, the reporter asked Pelosi whether Republicans are taking the Flint water crisis seriously.
‘I don’t think you saw that in the debate last night, did you? To be by proximity to Flint, so close, and not to even take it to enlarge the issue – not only to enlarge the issue, to say: This is terrible what happened in Flint. But how many other people in our country are at risk?’
[…]'(T)his is the canary in the mine, whatever analogy you want to use. But this is a very major responsibility that, in my view, has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with our responsibility to the American people. I had said yesterday in a press conference in D.C. in working with the Speaker on this issue, I saw nothing but signs of good will as we would go forward because they are not in denial. The presidentials may be in denial and the governor may be in denial but with the airing witness that all of these Members have both from Michigan and beyond, there’s a recognition that we all have a responsibility.’
In fact, much of America’s pipes, tanks, pumps, and other water infrastructure is over a century old. The standard conservative response to this challenge is privatization, a step which rarely fixes problems but does pad corporate profits.
Although Flint residents could not safely bathe in, wash clothes with, or drink their water, Food & Water Watch, a Washington, DC-based consumer rights group, revealed last month that the city pays the highest water rates in the country.