Politics & Prejudices: The nerd and the national menace

Feb 1, 2017 at 1:00 am
click to enlarge Politics & Prejudices: The nerd and the national menace
Detroit Regional Chamber via Flickr / Shutterstock

"I want you to look for those Michigan cows. Michigan cows are the second most productive in the nation after Colorado per cow. So when you see those cows, give them a shoutout. We want Colorado to moove on over."

— Gov. Rick Snyder, State of the State address, Jan. 17, 2017

"We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first. America first."

— President Donald Trump, inaugural address, Jan. 20, 2017

Feel sorry for me, kids. I had to watch and listen to two of the most dreadful speeches I've ever heard, only three days apart. The first was by our strange malfunctioning humanoid robot governor, who may need his battery pack changed.

Rick Snyder, to be perfectly fair, finally seemed able to get the entire state of Michigan to agree on something: that he managed to give the worst State of the State speech ever.

State Rep. Henry Yanez, a Democrat from Sterling Heights, showed his critical acumen by noting, "I think he might as well have said 'President Obama saved the auto industry and there's a bunch of other stuff. Good night and go home.'"

Alas, the governor blah-blahed on for 55 minutes instead, time my aging body has now lost forever on its journey to hell.

Chad Selweski — a savvy Macomb County journalist whose blog, Politically Speaking, leans slightly to the right — gave the speech a devastatingly eloquent putdown, noting that "he sounded not like a Republican governor but more like his Democratic predecessor, Jennifer Granholm."

Gongwer, a subscription-only news service that covers the Capitol relentlessly and, so far as possible, objectively, elegantly panned the speech saying, "Mr. Snyder's address was, startlingly, almost free of new proposals. Mr. Snyder did not call for any new tax proposals. He did not call for specific new developments in infrastructure improvements ..."

Perhaps that's because he knows from painful experience that he couldn't get this legislature to appropriate funds to buy him a wastebasket. Politically, of course, Snyder is less a robot than an animated corpse. His career ends the day he walks out of the governor's office, 23 months from today.

Possibly the most fascinating moment of the dead evening was when Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette warmly greeted Snyder just before the speech started.

The men actually hate each other.

What's more, Schuette intends to do everything he can to launch himself into the governorship by further destroying Snyder and prosecuting members of his administration.

You might think they would in fact be friends. They are both white bread, middle-aged Republicans. But Schuette, who has lusted after the governorship for years, has repeatedly gone out of his way to embarrass and humiliate Snyder.

Originally, he probably did this in order to ingratiate himself with the party's right wing, which has never been comfortable with Snyder — who usually flops over for their agenda, but isn't really one of them.

But like any good shark, the attorney general smelled blood in the water the moment the Flint crisis blew up in the governor's face. Schuette clearly soon saw this was a chance to make points with both the left as well as the right.

So now the attorney general, who previously had shown scant sympathy for anyone not wealthy enough to be a campaign donor, is the tribune of the poor oppressed people.

Given that he is trying to compete with our emotionless, empathy-free governor, that's not very hard to fake. Mere hours after greeting his old pal Rick at the State of the State, Schuette asked to file a brief in federal court against him.

Once more, it was a win-win for the attorney general; the case is one where the governor, with his usual callousness, is fighting a requirement that the state deliver bottled water to those Flint residents whose tap water is still unsafe to drink.

Guess who looks good here.

The attorney general has been dissing Snyder for years on matters that have nothing to do with law enforcement. Schuette went out of his way two years ago to embarrass the governor by opposing his ballot proposal to raise taxes to fix the roads.

That was likely all about scoring points with the right to help Big Bill win the GOP nomination for governor next year.

But on Nov. 8, it suddenly became far more urgent for the attorney general to do all he can to stick it to Snyder.

Donald Trump's election is sure to make it far harder for any Republican to be elected governor next year. Not just in Michigan, but nationally. Historically, the party holding the White House almost always loses big in midterm elections.

Just look at what happened to Democrats in 2010 or Republicans four years earlier. In Michigan, it should be even worse for any GOP candidate.

Voters in this state historically tend to change parties after either one holds the governorship for two terms. Not only has that been the case here, the governor has been the man whose administration poisoned the water of an entire city.

That should spell automatic doom for Schuette's hopes to be elected, assuming he can get by the colorless lieutenant governor, Brian Calley, and anyone else who might run in next August's GOP primary.

But he thinks he sees a path: be the tribune of the people who brought the dastardly characters who damaged Flint to justice! So far, the attorney general has indicted two of the Snyder-appointed emergency managers in Flint.

Will more indictments follow? What everyone has been asking for a year is what the governor knew and when he knew it, not only about the lead but the Legionnaires' disease that claimed a dozen lives when the Flint water was switched.

Where the investigation will end is not clear.

But for Rick Snyder, that great nonpolitical figure who came down from venture capital land to save us all seven years ago, these are bound to be very interesting times.

The Donald Watch

Twelve days ago, we sat and watched as our greatest living vulgarian delivered what George Will called "the most dreadful inaugural address in history."

Basically, he delivered what sounded very much like a neo-fascist call to revolution. America First, by the way, was an isolationist group with overtones of anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic prejudice, which worked hard in 1940 and 1941 to try to prevent us from going to war with Nazi Germany.

Trump, who must know that, called forth a dark vision of America designed to give us all nightmares. He painted a nation terrorized by "the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country ... this American carnage stops right here and right now."

In other words — forget this ineffective democracy, and turn everything over to President Trump and his rich friends. They will take care of us, and we'll have no worries.

That's right, actually. They will take care of us indeed, unless we fight very, very hard, for as long as it takes.

This has just begun.

So just how ya gonna do that?

Marilyn Abram, a faithful reader in Toronto, wrote to urge me to adopt the slogan "Make America sane again," and to post it on social media and plaster it on walls. Nice idea, Marilyn.

But you are going to have to wait a long time for that. Meanwhile, keep that guest room, just in case.