Pruitt Drowns in the Swamp
Chalk one up for the swamp. The permanent progressive state finally ran Scott Pruitt out of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, and the tragedy is that Mr. Pruitt gave his enemies so much ammunition.
President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon that he had accepted Mr. Pruitt’s resignation. Mr. Pruitt cited the “unrelenting attacks on me personally” and his family that have “taken a sizable toll on us all.” He’s right about unrelenting. Dozens of reporters have examined every furl of Mr. Pruitt’s forehead since he started the job.
Press dispatches have suggested that he misused private air travel, sent staff on personal errands and bought $1,560 pens, among dozens of other allegations. Mr. Pruitt says most of this was false or exaggerated, and no doubt much of it was. He’s also right that billionaires Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg were out to get him. You can add the EPA bureaucracy that leans left, the green lobby entwined with it, and their collaborators in the press corps.
But this is not news, or it shouldn’t have been to Mr. Pruitt, who claimed to understand he was the biggest political target in the Administration after President Trump. EPA is the Holy Sepulchre of progressive politics, and Mr. Pruitt posed an existential threat to command and control regulation that is the hallmark of the left’s environmental agenda.
Mr. Pruitt had to avoid even the hint of an ethical question, and he should have been walking around Federal Triangle handcuffed to a general counsel. Of particular odor were the claims that Mr. Pruitt used his official position to help his wife find work or even open a Chick-fil-A franchise. The daily assault undermined his effectiveness and ultimately his support at the White House.
The shame is that Mr. Trump is losing his bravest deregulator. Mr. Pruitt started to roll back the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan that attempted to re-engineer the economy with little effect on climate change. He clamped down on the “sue and settle” racket that allows environmental groups to impose policy through consent degrees. He moved to redefine the Waters of the United States rule that let EPA regulate ponds and potholes. Mr. Pruitt also sought to require more honest cost-benefit analysis, and he updated advisory science boards that have been stacked with members who receive EPA grants.
Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will take over, though acting directors are inherently transitional and thus less powerful. Then again, Mr. Wheeler may be there a while: Senate Democrats would block the Dalai Lama to run EPA if Mr. Trump nominated him.
Fresh off its Pruitt defenestration, the left will be looking for new targets, so some advice to the rest of the Trump cabinet: Fly coach.
Appeared in the July 6, 2018, print edition.