Ted Cruz's Water Donations To Flint, Michigan, Aren't Nearly As Benevolent As They Seem

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were praised at the last Democratic debate for drawing attention to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Not to be one-upped, Ted Cruz's campaign announced that it will distribute water donations to the city — but only to anti-abortion counseling centers. Presumably, the rest of the city's residents aren't worthy. In the pantheon of Ted Cruz-y things that one could do, using a water crisis to push pro-life politics is one of the Ted Cruz-iest.

The junior senator from Texas is clearly trying to capitalize on public outrage over the crisis. Flint's water supply has had dangerously high levels of lead for the better part of a year, and residents are suffering physical and emotional disorders as a result. But apparently, Cruz wasn't willing to simply distribute water to a random sampling of Flint's residents. He only wants to give it to organizations that are devoted to stopping abortions.

Wendy Lynn Day, the Michigan state director for Cruz's presidential campaign, announced on Facebook that the campaign had been "working with Flint Right to Life since Friday to find out how best to help Flint," and that they would be "delivering water to Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Flint to give to expecting moms and moms of little ones."

The undeniable implication here is that only women who have decided to give birth are deserving of water relief. Pregnant Flint women who've opted to get abortions will not be receiving any of the Cruz campaign's free water.

Cruz's moral calculus — that women who get abortions don't deserve as much help as women who have children — is unfortunately not surprising. His political calculus, though, is a bit puzzling: Why didn't his campaign just distribute water to everyone? After all, that would have given him just as much positive publicity for helping out a struggling city without any of the criticism from, you know, journalists like me. It might make sense if there was some widespread doubt amongst Republicans about whether Cruz is sufficiently anti-abortion, but there is no such doubt. What does he gain by restricting his charity to pro-life groups?

On the other hand, the Iowa caucus is just a week away, and Cruz is trailing Donald Trump in state polling. Maybe, then, this is a subtle attempt to highlight Trump's past support for abortion and bring on-the-fence Iowa Republicans over to the Cruz camp. Still, you have to think about how these things will play in a general election, and it's hard to imagine that such a partisan, discriminatory attitude towards charity will help Cruz win over swing voters in November.