Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder addresses attendees during the 2016 Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, Sept. 18, 2015, in Mackinac Island, Mich.
Photo by Carlos Osorio/AP

Michigan’s Snyder criticizes ‘culture in government’

As the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, continues, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is speaking out more about his perspective on the scandal, and this morning talked to MSNBC about where he’s assigning blame. The Detroit News reported it this way:
Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday continued to lay blame at the feet of state Department of Environmental Quality employees for failing to require Flint to add corrosion control chemicals to its river water that could have prevented lead from leaching into the drinking water supply.
The Republican made frequent references to “culture” during the interview, complaining about public agencies lacking a “culture of asking the common-sense questions,” adding there’s “a huge bureaucratic problem and it’s part of the problem with culture in government.”
The rhetoric was jarring in large part because it came from the governor himself. When Rick Snyder refers to problems with “government,” he’s specifically talking about Rick Snyder’s administration. The decisions that did so much damage in Flint were made by emergency managers appointed by the governor himself.
Even the state Department of Environmental Quality employees Snyder is now blaming are employees who answer to him.
At one point, he added, “Let’s look at the entire cultural background of how people have been operating” – which is to say, the culture of how people have been operating in Snyder’s own administration.
Snyder’s rhetoric is starting to line up with some of what we’re hearing from Republican presidential candidates, who were stubbornly silent on the crisis for too long, but who are slowly addressing the disaster publicly.
Ted Cruz, for example, said the “travesty” in Flint “is a failure at every level of government, a failure of the city officials, a failure of the county officials, and the men and women of Michigan have been betrayed. Every American is entitled to have access to clean water. and to all the children who have been poisoned by government officials, by their negligence, by their ineptitude, it’s heart-breaking.”
Marco Rubio, who seemed to have no idea that the Flint story even existed earlier this week, added yesterday, “There was a significant government breakdown…. [I]t’s a very, a systemic and ugly breakdown at the local and state level.”
Except, again, “local” officials weren’t in a position of authority; Snyder’s emergency managers were making the decisions.
But taken together, a theme is starting to emerge: leading Republicans believe the Flint crisis is an example of the “culture in government.” Don’t blame Snyder, the argument goes, blame the more ideologically satisfying public sector in general.