Michigan Governor Rick Snyder talks to reporters during the press preview for the 2016 North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall, Jan. 12, 2016 in Detroit, Mich. 
Photo by Paul Warner/Getty

Flint gets emergency declaration, Snyder gets defensive

1/17/16, 10:50 PM ET

Clinton outraged over Flint, Michigan water crisis

During the NBC News-YouTube Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton calls out the governor of Michigan for stonewalling requests for help over the lead-contaminated water.
During the NBC News-YouTube Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton calls out the governor of Michigan for stonewalling requests for help over the lead-contaminated water.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), still scrambling to address the crisis in Flint that his administration caused, reached out to the White House late last week for aid. On Saturday, President Obama agreed, declaring a federal emergency and freeing up millions of dollars in resources.
But as the Detroit Free Press reported, Snyder also requested a federal disaster declaration, and on that front, Obama did not go along with the Republican governor’s appeal.
A disaster declaration would have made larger amounts of federal funding available more quickly to help Flint residents whose drinking water is contaminated with lead. But under federal law, only natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods are eligible for disaster declarations, federal and state officials said. The lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water is a manmade catastrophe.
The president’s actions authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate responses and cover 75% of the costs for much-needed water, filters, filter cartridges and other items for residents, capped initially at $5 million. The president also offered assistance in finding other available federal assistance, a news release Saturday from the White House said.
While this phase of the process moves forward, the political pressure is intensifying. Hillary Clinton, who slammed Snyder’s handling of the crisis during her interview with Rachel on Thursday, highlighted the issue again during last night’s debate, again attacking the governor’s slow, inept response. Bernie Sanders reiterated his call for the Michigan Republican to resign.
As the debate ended, Snyder wrote on Twitter, “Political statements and finger pointing from political candidates only distract from solving the Flint water crisis.”
First, it takes real chutzpah for the governor, or all people, to give lectures about solving the crisis. Yes, there’s finger pointing, but only to serve a worthwhile cause: accountability.
Second, if Snyder had responded to the crisis as quickly as he responded to Hillary Clinton, Flint wouldn’t be in this mess.
Meanwhile, the question of what Snyder knew about Flint and when continues to dog the governor’s office, and the Free Press’ editorial board made a compelling case over the weekend that Snyder should release internal communications related to the scandal.
It’s none of your business what Gov. Rick Snyder knew about the Flint water crisis, or when he knew it, as it might be reflected in his emails.
Also none of your business: What he may have been saying to his staff in emails about the lead contamination in the city’s water, or what his staff may have been saying to other officials in the departments of environmental quality or community health.
That’s because Michigan law privileges all of that information, shielding it from the Freedom of Information Act…. But Snyder, whose administration is now embroiled in a scandal emanating from the foul-ups that led to water poisoning in Flint and the inexplicably slow response, owes all of us better than what the law calls for. He owes us full transparency, and explication.
Whether the governor intends to waive his own FOIA privilege is unclear, but it’s a safe bet this editorial won’t be the last time Snyder is confronted with the question.