Hillary Clinton became the first presidential candidate of either party to mention during a debate that the people of Flint, Michigan, have been the victims of a cascade of government screw-ups that led to them being furnished with poisoned drinking water.
In her closing statement during Sunday's Democratic debate, she went on to highlight some of the things her own campaign has done in response to the crisis.
CLINTON: I spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what's happening in Flint, Michigan, and I think every single American should be outraged. We've had a city in the United States of America where the population -- which is poor in many ways, and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn't really care. He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled. I'll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action. So I sent my top campaign aide down there to talk to the mayor of Flint, to see what I could do to help, and I issued a statement about what we needed to do, and then I went on a TV show, and I said it was outrageous that the governor hadn't acted. I want to be a president that takes care of the big problems and the problems that are affecting the people of our country every day.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), at the top of his closing statement, mentioned the situation in Flint and called for the resignation of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R).
Like Sanders, Clinton has condemned Snyder, but she's also gone the extra mile, working on both bringing attention to and seeking solutions for this crisis. On the former front, Clinton has used local and national media to keep important details in the public eye, such as the fact that a General Motors factory opted to eschew Flint's water supply because they noticed it was degrading engine parts, even as state officials were insisting the supply was safe.
She also took a complaint with Snyder to "The Rachel Maddow Show":
CLINTON: Right now, as best I can understand, the governor, the Republican governor, Gov. Snyder, is refusing to ask for the triggering of the federal help that he needs in order to take care of the people who are his constituents ... And I am just outraged by this.
Clinton has called on the Obama administration to get involved in the matter, and last week dispatched two of her top campaign aides to the city to meet with Flint's mayor, Karen Weaver.
Clinton's adroit use of the media, her connections to the Obama administration and her campaign infrastructure in this instance have provided her candidacy with the means to show off the value of being an institutionalist, as opposed to a revolutionary.
Meanwhile, it's a sad statement that none of the media organizations that have hosted debates since the Dec. 15 emergency declaration issued by Weaver have bothered to bring it up, despite the fact that the crisis goes right to the core of arguments over income inequality and the role of government. As is often the case, actual poor people get short shrift from the political press.
Read more updates on the debate here.
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