As the effluence of Gov. Snyder’s carefully timed bolus of damning emails was discharged in bulk on the media last Friday, the political fallout went from bad to worse for him and his closest aides. Digging for a story, speed-reading reporters easily connected the dots — those same dots the governor’s office claimed not to have seen. Yet, while the details of the governor’s prior knowledge of the poisoning of Flint’s water floated to the surface, spreading like a river of sludge through online reporting — other mischief was afoot.
Attorney General Bill Schuette, who at first was hesitant to investigate the Flint water scandal, and finally, last month acquiesced under public pressure to attempt to learn who might possibly be culpable, also had a craftily timed scheme of his own at the end of the work week.
Schuette, who has had gubernatorial aspirations over the full breadth of his interminable multi-decade tortoise crawl to the governor’s mansion, cannot afford to have Snyder vacate the office prior to November 2018. Were that to happen, be it through resignation or criminal findings — Michigan’s Constitutional order of succession would put Lt. Gov. Brian Calley behind the governor’s desk. Calley, who harbors a serious gubernatorial itch himself, would then be sitting in the political catbird seat — a place where Schuette would prefer not to see him. As an incumbent in 2018, Calley would enjoy the full faith and credit of the Republican party — an asset necessary to win. Schuette would be locked-out of his Lansing dreams.
Thus, Friday’s news cycle became a choreographed dance of politics.
It unfolded midmorning, on the slowest news day of the week, when Michigan was served-up this headliner:
While the ugliness of the morning’s news sank-in and increasingly pointed squarely in the direction of Snyder’s culpability, this story abruptly caught the imagination of angry Republicans and Democrats…exquisitely timed, just as they took their afternoon social media coffee break:
Nothing’s juicier than a sex and corruption scandal, especially when it potentially culminates in politicians being fitted for orange jumpsuits. After Schuette broke his latest Todd Courser/Cindy Gamrat story, the AG circled-back to double-down with the media, reaffirming his intention to prosecute the two naughty lawmakers to the fullest, by gum!
On Saturday, Courser’s attorney, Matt DePerno, released a statement on the charges against his client:
Yesterday, Attorney General Schuette filed baseless criminal charges against Todd Courser that are political in nature and have come at a time to take heat off the misconduct of others.
Courser’s legal counsel did not elaborate as to who those “others” might be, and we are not suggesting that the fallen lawmaker is exculpable, but his client seems to have become a political pawn in the game of the attorney general’s lofty ambitions.
The timing of these two stories is curious to say the least, in spite of Schuette going out of his way to show how he set-up a firewall between his office and the governor’s for the purpose of the Flint investigation. It is doubtful Snyder’s staff participated in coordinating these releases — not because they were insufficiently clever, but because at that time they were in the midst of yet another PR shake-up, with the governor frantically firing and replacing his political spin team, again. But, Schuette certainly must have understood the significance of claiming the news cycle for himself, taking the shade off the office of the governor. After all, it’s in his best interest to limp the politically crippled governor through to the end of his term.
Good luck with that Mr. Schuette — you’ll need scandalous material aplenty to shield the governor from his own incompetencies for the next 32 months.
(Updated 2-28-16 to remove reference to recall as a means for Calley to assume governorship. The new recall law calls for a new election.)