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Gov. Snyder set to snub our nation's leader when he comes to Flint

Jack Lessenberry

The nation was enchanted by little Amariyanna Copeny, Mari for short, who calls herself “Little Miss Flint.”

Mari, an absolutely adorable eight-year-old, had written President Obama and asked to meet with him when she came to Washington.

That didn’t happen, but clearly some savvy staffer saw her letter and realized this might be a perfect backdrop for a presidential visit to Flint.

A number of people, including me, have been surprised that the President did not visit the afflicted city before.

This week, Mari got a letter from the President himself, telling her that he was proud of her for “using your voice to speak out on behalf of the children of Flint,” and saying that he wanted her to be the first to know he is coming to visit next week and hopes to meet her.

Well, after seeing a video of this little girl, all I can say is that I’m sure the various candidates for office are very happy she isn’t old enough to run. You know that the photo opportunity highlight of the President’s visit is certain to be his meeting with Little Miss Flint.

But if Mari is eager to meet with the President, Governor Snyder seemingly is not.

Yesterday, Snyder, who is on a trade mission in Europe, sent word that his dance card is full and that he’s not scheduled to be in Flint that day.

Politically, that seems like a huge mistake.

Politically, that seems like a huge mistake.

Right now Snyder has pretty much zero credibility when it comes to Flint. You would think it would make sense for him to rush to appear with the President, and make it look like they are working together to solve this crisis.

But he evidently doesn’t see it that way. Twenty-some years ago, then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was in Brooklyn the same day as President Clinton, and the Republican mayor was going to ostentatiously snub the Democratic president.

The New York Daily News had a headline ready to go –“Brooklyn Dodgers.” But at the last minute, Giuliani realized the error of his ways, and met with the President.

Snubbing the nation’s leader when he comes to visit your town is not good manners or politics.

Snubbing the nation's leader when he comes to visit your town is not good manners or politics.

In a similar vein, the late Gerald Ford, Michigan’s only president, could have told Ted Cruz something about Hail Mary passes. Cruz, of course, tapped Carly Fiorina as his running mate yesterday, in the increasingly unlikely event he gets the nomination for President. Exactly forty 40nyears ago, Ronald Reagan tried the same thing.

That year, Reagan and President Ford were in an extremely close battle for the Republican presidential nomination, and neither arrived at the convention with enough delegates. Reagan then stunned the world by announcing that Richard Schweiker, a liberal senator from Pennsylvania, would be his running mate.

This was designed to pry loose a few Ford votes.

Instead, it backfired. Conservatives were outraged, and liberals felt Schweiker had sold them out. Ford won the nomination, and Schweiker never ran for office again.

Similarly, it’s hard to see how Fiorina helps Cruz, since almost nobody voted for her when she was running. Those who don’t know the past aren’t necessarily condemned to repeat it.

But they do tend to screw up a lot.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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