Finley: Clinton is exploiting Flint crisis

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

To hear Bill Clinton tell it, his wife came to Flint, saw the crisis, solved the crisis.

Meanwhile, the other politicians, namely Gov. Rick Snyder, sat holed up counting beans while the city’s children gulped poisoned water. That’s the message of a new political ad the former president cut on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and will run incessantly in the days leading up to Michigan’s March 8 presidential primary.

“The Work of Making Change” ad has Bill Clinton touting the sheer potency of Hillary’s leadership.

Her compassion and instincts — and deep knowledge of the impact of lead on the brains of children — drove her, he says, to call Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and ask, “What can I do to make it better?”

The mayor, the narrative continues, urged Hillary to go on national TV and demand action to purify Flint’s water and bring aid to the city’s residents.

And so she did, and, “They got the money,” Bill Clinton says. Wow.

Except it’s largely bullwhacky. A distortion of cause and effect. And an exploitation of the tragedy in Flint.

Hillary Clinton’s jawboning on the Rachel Maddow show didn’t awaken the nation to Flint. Cher’s bizarre call for Snyder’s execution got more play. Clinton was actually late to the party. By the time she discovered Flint, the enormous task of fixing the water and bringing help to residents had already been set in motion.

In fact, she ignored Flint in early January when she came to Detroit to pick up fundraising checks. It wasn’t until she saw the opportunity to make political hay that she jumped on board.

And even then, there’s no tangible evidence that Flint “got the money,” as the ad claims, because of anything Hillary Clinton did.

The campaign is milking the sheer coincidence that the Obama administration coughed up $5 million in emergency funds after her television appearance. That application was already in the works, and came as consolation for the rejection of a Snyder request for $80 in disaster relief. If Clinton tried to prod her old boss to cough up the disaster designation, it didn’t work.

Nothing in Snyder’s email dump suggests it was a fear of Clinton that prompted the governor to allocate millions in Flint. He was working on that well before she showed up.

But speaking of emails, Clinton could help her credibility by releasing any emails she sent to the White House or federal agencies demanding aid for Flint, and the answers she received. If she truly is the hero of Flint, there should be a paper trail.

Bill Clinton concludes his pitch with a dig at Sen. Bernie Sanders, his wife’s Democratic opponent, noting that while Hillary was turning her outrage into action, all Sanders did was call for Snyder’s resignation, which the former president suggests might not be a bad idea.

In reality, Hillary Clinton’s exploitation of Flint is hurting more than it helps. Perpetuating the myth, as she has been doing, that the city’s children were intentionally poisoned to save money works against restoring trust and unity in a city that badly needs both.

And the Clinton campaign’s co-opting of Weaver has strained the state/local cooperative effort that is essential to quickly restoring drinkable water.

Hopefully, Flint and Michigan can survive two more weeks of presidential politicking.

Nolan Finley’s new book, “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice,” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.