After Donald Trump, the individual in DC with the biggest target on his back is Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. When he was attorney general of Oklahoma, he sued the EPA more than a dozen times to get the powerful regulatory agency to stay within its legal authority. His nomination was deeply concerning to radical environmentalists inside and outside the media. As a result, he and his team have been under a microscope since even before his confirmation in early 2017.
Well-funded environmental groups, many with former EPA staffers, deluge the agency with FOIA requests to catch someone in a scandal. Unlike how they covered Obama-era EPA administrators, media outlets constantly request information about everything Pruitt does, from his schedule to his travel particulars. Whipped-up partisans have made unprecedented numbers of death threats against him and his family. Powerful liberals opine against him.
Some suggest the death threats are understandable. Liberal Republican governors of New Jersey despise the man. Thomas Kean was calling on him to resign a year ago. Christine Todd Whitman gave inappropriately unserious comments about the death threats. Chris Christie did George Stephanopolous’ bidding by trying to throw Pruitt under the bus this past weekend. Maybe there is something in the water of Jersey.
The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol, who this week tweeted his desire for Michelle Obama to run and defeat Donald Trump, said Pruitt was a parody of sycophancy for supporting a conservative deregulatory agenda. He also thrice tweeted his excitement over the possibility of leftists ousting Pruitt. Fellow NeverTrump enthusiast and Washington Post in-house conservative (really!) Jennifer Rubin also expressed giddiness about him possibly being fired.
And John Podesta — yes, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign — was given valuable Washington Post editorial space to say Pruitt must go. Paul Waldman also stomped his feet and demanded Pruitt must resign, mostly for the crime of
doing “the most harm to the United States of America” being effective.
But unlike so many Republican politicians in the world today, Pruitt has not been deterred. He worked to scrap Obama administration regulations that exceeded EPA authority and harmed the coal industry. He rescinded confusing and contradictory water rules that hurt farmers and ranchers. He shepherded the U.S. departure from the uneven and horribly negotiated Paris climate accord. He is demanding scientific rigor for agency work.
Pruitt is not some anti-environmentalist but someone who wants the EPA to do what Congress charges it with doing to improve the nation’s environment. So he awarded $100 million to upgrade drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and began an effort to eradicate lead poisoning from drinking water. He committed additional funds to deal with the EPA’s botching of the Gold King Mine release that polluted Colorado and Utah.
There are poor ways, average ways, and shrewd ways to tackle the constitutional problems that arise from the administrative state. Many Republicans either don’t realize the problems of an unelected bureaucracy’s power, or fail to combat those problems effectively. Pruitt is in the final category, demonstrating competency and a devotion to rule of law. And he has the courage that so many of his GOP peers lack, not being intimidated by the normal media frenzy that intimidates other Republican appointees.
Recently, a coordinated attempt to oust him has taken shape, as this liberal TV producer notes:
The Washington Post sent out an edition of an email newsletter that nicely summed up the coordinated hit on Pruitt. He rented a room that critics say created an appearance of conflict because he got a good rate and the husband of the woman he rented from heads a law firm that does some lobbying. He was approved for the room by an 18-year career ethics person at EPA, but liberal Pruitt opponents are “concerned.” The general rental space also was used by three members of Congress for fundraising on days Pruitt was in town. He wasn’t invited to the events, didn’t attend them, and even if he had no ethics laws would have been violated, but liberal Pruitt opponents are “concerned.”
Supposedly few people in the White House are coming to Pruitt’s defense, particularly if you don’t count the president and his chief of staff, who made calls of support to him. Oh, also, EPA officials considered leasing a private jet for Pruitt to accommodate his travel and security needs but didn’t do it. Yes, that’s really one of the stories.
Also, Pruitt “bypassed” the White House to get raises for two of his top aides who came to DC from Oklahoma. Pruitt didn’t get White House approval to sign off on the pay raises, but EPA officials used an authority that other EPA administrators used to set pay. Pruitt said he wasn’t aware that the actions hadn’t been submitted for White House approval, so he directed his staff to do that.
Other recent supposed scandals include that his security team had him flying first class because of the death threats and other physical security threats. The real reason for the media/resistance/establishment chatter about ousting Pruitt, however, is that Pruitt tackles the abuse of the rule of law at EPA head on and has been effective at advancing a conservative deregulatory agenda.
Just this week the EPA announced a rollback of Obama fuel efficiency standards that were part of the Paris arrangement, were set too high, short-circuited the regulatory process, and were favoring pick-ups and SUVs over the automobiles hit with the standards. In a statement, Pruitt said, “Obama’s EPA cut the midterm evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality and set the standards too high.” California is already suing to block the rollback.
A Sudden, Disparate Interest
The media and activists didn’t treat Obama’s EPA secretary, Lisa Jackson, with any rigor, despite her demonstrable corruption. She used the alias “Richard Windsor” to correspond secretly with people outside of the EPA, including with environmental activists and the man who would lead the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. When this same woman criticized the Trump administration for lack of transparency, almost nobody in the media pointed out how ludicrous a messenger she was. She’s now a VP at Apple. When the EPA broke laws, only conservative media showed any interest.
It’s not that there was no media coverage of the EPA-caused Gold King Mine spill, the EPA-ignored Flint Water Crisis, the EPA administrator misleading Congress, the EPA violating federal propaganda policies, or many other problems under Jackson and her Obama replacement Gina McCarthy, but it was never done with the same bloodthirsty frenzy surrounding Pruitt. Not even a tiny fraction of it.
For many people on the left, EPA regulations touch on quasi-religious views. They treat people like Pruitt as heretics who must be destroyed. That’s fine, and expected from the members of the resistance. These Resistance members predict they will succeed in ousting Pruitt. They hate him and want him gone. They recognize that he’s not just a problem, but a big problem. That’s why we’re witnessing the coordinated hits on him.
More details on that double standard here.
If the anti-Pruitt campaign does succeed, it would be a tremendous victory for the left, and one that would embolden them like nothing else. It would also utterly destroy conservative base morale. Conservatives have put up with a lot during the Trump era and much of that can be explained by the actual policy wins. Pruitt is entrenching rule of law in the administrative state and rescinding liberty-crushing regulations that exceed EPA authority. His work getting the United States out of economy-harming regulatory schemes is responsible for much of the economic successes of Trump’s first year.
The reasons the media and their Resistance followers hate Pruitt are the same reasons conservatives love him and why conservatives are willing to support Trump. No, the reason is not that he got approval from a career ethics official to rent a room for a few months last year. Let’s stop pretending so. If Trump were to fulfill the Resistance’s desire to oust Pruitt, it would be against his own political interest. His instincts about that tend to be pretty sharp, so don’t be surprised if Pruitt continues to serve and continues to anger the media and other Democrats and establishment figures.