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On second thought, Snyder will meet with Obama

May 4, 2016

Six days ago, when it was first announced that President Obama was finally coming to Flint, Governor Snyder sent word from Europe that he was busy and didn’t plan to be in town that day. It was instantly clear that this was a huge political mistake.

Politically and socially, it is bad manners to snub the President when he comes to your state, especially when it is in response to a major humanitarian crisis.

In this case, a crisis caused by Rick Snyder’s own appointees. If you have a background in politics, you just knew that Snyder was going to have to find a way to change course and avoid further embarrassing himself.

Eventually, he did so, offering the rather lame excuse that he didn’t want to confirm the president’s visit before the White House did, and was soon asking both for a meeting and to be part of today’s events, including greeting the president as his plane arrives.

What is happening today, especially between the two men, will be about as spontaneous as Kabuki theatre. There will be, I expect, some kind of private or semi-private meeting. Both men will express their heartfelt desire to work together for the good of Flint. The President may well announce some new benefit for the city, and vow to work to get more from Congress.

All of which is likely to be overshadowed by coverage of his meeting with the enchanting eight-year-old who calls herself Little Miss Flint. The President should be back in Washington in time for dinner, and the newscasts will have their lead story for tonight.

Someone asked me if I would like to be a fly on the wall during the president and governor’s meeting, and I said, “not especially.” I think it is likely to be boring. But I would like to be inside their heads. Especially, the governor’s. Think about this. One year ago, it looked quite likely that a Republican, most likely Jeb Bush, might be the next President.

The American voters tend to switch White House control every eight years.

Had that happened, it would have been quite likely that Snyder would have been strongly considered for a cabinet post – possibly the Office of Management and Budget. Last night it became clear the Republicans will nominate Donald Trump instead.

Snyder and Trump may not have much in common, but that doesn’t matter. Nobody would or will ever again elect or appoint Rick Snyder to anything.

Sixty-nine percent of Michigan voters give him a negative job performance rating, according to an EPIC-MRA poll.

Snyder will be remembered, fairly or unfairly, as the man who poisoned Flint. Meanwhile, President Obama is enjoying a modest resurgence. There may be some Obama fatigue, but polls now show him with a net favorable rating.

Less than nine months from now, Obama will be, he has said, “on a beach drinking something out of a coconut.” 

He will be remembered as the President who saved the auto industry, had Osama Bin Laden killed, and established national health care.

Meanwhile, Mr. Snyder will still have almost two years to twist slowly in the wind in Lansing. I don’t know if any of that is occurring to him today. But I do know that if it hasn’t, it will.

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.