Scott Pruitt, the man whose life’s mission has been to blow up the EPA so his friends and financial supporters could enrich themselves, has put his tail between his legs and snuck out of town. His resignation came as allegations of malfeasance, corruption, abuse of office, and self dealing threatened to overwhelm him.
He will now be qualified to receive a cushy government pension for life provided by the taxpayers he despises. The hallmark of the Trump administration is its refusal to govern on behalf of all the people of the United States, only those who support its nefarious agenda, which is centered on reinvigorating the coal industry and promoting the use of fossil fuels.
There was a time in America when people went into government service to serve the public. If they were in business, they put their business interests aside during their time in office to avoid any sense that they were profiting personally from their public position.
The Trump model is completely different, however. In the world according to Donald, there is no pretense at serving the public. Instead, political office is just a stepping stone to personal enrichment. No matter that Pruitt’s paymasters jeopardize the health and safety of all Americans for their own personal gain, they pay handsomely for his talents and he has been happy to do their bidding while in office so long as they keep fattening his wallet. People get upset when I use the word “prostitute” to describe Trump and the members of his government, but there really is no other word to accurately describe what is going on in Washington today.
During his time as head of the EPA, Pruitt revealed himself to be nothing short of a paranoid lunatic obsessed with fears both real and imagined. He demanded a 20-member 24-hour security detail to protect him from perceived enemies while using taxpayer money to construct a soundproof booth inside his office to keep people from overhearing his phone calls. If this wasn’t so serious, a person might guffaw over the analogy to the famous Cone of Silence that was a feature of the old TV sitcom Get Smart. All Pruitt needed was a shoe phone to complete the analogy.
According to The Guardian, a person within the EPA claims Pruitt kept a secret calendar to hide the fact that he was meeting with coal and oil industry representatives at the EPA. Afterwards, staff members would go into his office to alter or remove any record of those meetings. This is criminal activity, for which Pruitt deserves to be imprisoned. How dare he carry on a secret agenda out of the view of the American public while serving in government? At the time of his departure, there were at least 14 known investigations into official misconduct on his part.
None of his wrongdoing had any effect on his boss, however. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One after Pruitt resigned, “Scott Pruitt did an outstanding job inside of the EPA.” Earlier he told reporters, “You know, I just left coal and energy country. They feel very strongly about Scott Pruitt. And they love Scott Pruitt.”
Others have been less charitable. In an e-mail to CleanTechnica, May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said, “Pruitt’s ethics were as polluted as his policies and it’s good to see him go, but replacing him with coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler only reaffirms the Trump administration’s fossil fuel allegiance. From the get-go, Polluting Pruitt was appointed with one mission: line the pockets of coal, oil, and gas executives, even at the expense of health and safety of our communities. With Wheeler expected to do more of the same, we will continue to fight against this administration’s disastrous policies, and pressure local and state officials to fill the void of climate leadership.”
Now that the horrifically unqualified Pruitt has departed, some Republicans are starting to speak out about him. Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican congressman from Florida, tweeted: “Finally. Actually he did a horrible job. He was a disaster and an embarrassment from day one, and the country is far better off without him.”
Oh, really, Congressman? And where were you went Pruitt was in office? Did you utter a peep of protest about the horrible job he was doing then? Or did you, like your Republican colleagues, keep silent as part of the ongoing show of cowardice Republicans in Congress have become known for? Any jackass can criticize someone who has resigned. It takes courage to speak up beforehand. As Elie Wiesel taught us, “There will be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but we must never fail to protest.” Your platitudes now are a testament to your lack of intestinal fortitude when America was depending on you to do your job.
Speaking anonymously to The Guardian prior to Pruitt’s resignation, a senior EPA official said of the EPA: “People are so done with these folks. We waited and waited for some adults to show up. But the relentless tide of bullshit from Pruitt and his cronies is tough to deal with.” Janet McCabe, a former EPA assistant administrator, said: “I think morale at the EPA is at a very low ebb. The bigger concern is the environmental mission of the agency. Substantively, what has happened in the last year is a big a threat as the agency has ever faced.”
And things won’t get any better with Andrew Wheeler, professional coal company lobbyist, at the helm in place of Pruitt. This would be the chance for the Senate to stand up to the blowhard on Pennsylvania Avenue and refuse to confirm Wheeler as Pruitt’s replacement. But they won’t, because if they did, the Koch Brothers would target them for a primary battle. Several senators who did not suck up to the Kochs have lost their seats as the Kochs dumped unlimited funds into punishing them for their lack of loyalty. The message has been received. Oppose the Koch Brothers and your political career is over.
Which brings to mind the ditty from YIP Harburg penned years ago when people asked if they should send a letter to their congressional representative. “Each congressman has two ends,” Harburg wrote. “A sitting and a thinking end. And since his whole career depends upon his seat…why bother, friend?”
And so it goes in America today. Our leaders throw us under the bus every day as part of a Xavier Onassis strategy. “What can we do?” they whine, while wringing their hands in despair. What they could do, of course, is rediscover the secret location where they stored their testicles when they agreed to subscribe to the gospel according to Koch. But don’t hold your breath. The absence of political courage is now the accepted norm in Washington. The prospects of a responsible government returning to the shore of the Potomac any time soon are very dim indeed.