(WJBK) - Optics. Optics. Optics.
That's the new buzz word all the pundits are glumming onto.
The optics of Hillary Clinton having a whopping 40 point lead over Bernie Sanders in Iowa and then "winning" by the hair of her chinny chin-chin does not look very good.
Governor Rick Snyder has his own optics problem as his administration is flooded with Flint water problems.
Now comes Attorney General Bill Schuette whose office, from the outside looking in, seemed to be stumbling around in the dark on how it is handling the Flint investigation. His office disagrees.
First of all, last December when the story was reaching critical mass, Mr. A.G. punted on launching an investigation. It was not needed, he said and at the same time he gave a glowing review of Dan Wyant who presided over the DEQ's bungling of the crisis. Mr.Wyant was then shown the door as he took one for the Snyder team after his department was fingered for making mistakes.
Mr. Schuette a couple of weeks ago reversed his decision and launched an investigation suggesting that "new information" was the reason why.
O.K. politicians can change their minds but many wags in town opined that with all the media attention on this, why wouldn't Mr. Schuette get in on the action since he likes to see his name in the news, his critics contend. He counters he is just doing his job.
This pass week, however, his handlers got into something that, from an optical perspective, raised some question.
Three days before the state had to respond to a class action suit, filed last November, Mr. Schuette's legal eagles filed a hurry-up motion with the federal court seeking another thirty days to respond. Nothing unusual about that.
But there, tucked in on page seven and eight, was a request to separate the governor's defense from the seven DEQ workers who were also targeted in the suit.
Why that move?
Based on the events in Flint the governor's defense lawyers wrote "particularly in the last week, it has become apparent that there is a potential conflict of interest," the court filing explains, and based on that, "counsel have determined it is likely they cannot effectively represent both sets of clients."
What potential conflict?
The A.G.'s media person at first did not answer the question and when pressed for an answer this came back, "In the interest of what's best for each client, I can't offer any further comment."
Could it mean the governor did not want to be on the same side of this law suit with those who allegedly made mistakes that created the Flint water crisis?
One source suggests that interpretation is spot on but the A.G.'s office would not confirm or deny it.
It gets more interesting.
After the 30 day motion was made public, the media reported that the employees would need to "get their own lawyers."
It was a logical conclusion since the court papers said the state would not represent them.
Wrong came the indignant response from the A.G.'s team. Turns out, "those individual employees would be provided outside counsel" which was "common practice."
This notice to the media went out Monday Feb 1 at 2:11 p.m.
Then on Feburary 2 the A.G.'s office decided it would inform the federal judge that the DEQ folks would have representation but different from the governor's.
There was nothing unusual about that, a source explains.
The governor has long held the belief that he does not "take credit or blame" but his critics contend it's clear now that he is blaming some state workers and Democrats claim it's an attempt to shift blame from his own conduct. When the blame game began, it was at that point that his defense team had to quickly shift gears and move to remove the employees from the governor's defense effort. And in the second filing, news releases were reportedly included noting that the governor had hired two P.R. firms to help get his message out and negative comments from the governor on the conduct of state workers were also reportedly included. Which some say, does leave the impression that he is the one who did not want to be associated with the state civil servants and his lawyers acted accordingly. The governor's office, asked for a response, as of Thursday night, had not said anything.