Scott Pruitt has been doing a “fantastic” job as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to President Donald Trump.
And upon reflection, Trump is right.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of illustrating the swamp Trump promised to drain, with more ethical controversies than the rest of the ethically challenged Cabinet put together.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of confirming the wonders of first-class travel — by insisting that’s the only way he’ll fly. Then, after he got busted for junkets like the $120,000 trip to Italy for him and his retinue that included a $36,000 military jet flight from Cincinnati to New York so he could catch a first-class flight to Rome, he did an even more fabuloso job. He explored the EPA buying a charter aircraft membership at $100,000 a month that would have let him essentially fly first-class all the time. Captain Fantastic also had some charter flights approved after he had taken them, and some trips arranged so he could spend weekends at home in Oklahoma on the public’s dime.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of demonstrating what ego and entitlement look like — by requesting a 24/7, 20-person security detail, three times bigger than his predecessor’s, and a $43,000 soundproof booth in his office so that EPA employees can’t overhear his conversations.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of showing that it pays to have friends — by renting a prime Washington condo at below-market rate from a woman whose husband is an energy lobbyist whose firm has business before the EPA, and who together made more than $4,000 in campaign contributions to Pruitt’s Oklahoma attorney general campaigns and his federal political action committee. Pruitt flew to Morocco to plug American liquefied natural gas, not the job of an EPA head, but a pitch surely appreciated by the husband whose firm lobbies on behalf of a company with a liquefied natural gas export plant.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of showing he can be a friend — by hiring an Oklahoma banker who gave Pruitt three mortgages and a loan and who later was banned for life from banking by federal regulators, to oversee the Superfund program at $172,000 a year.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of proving that dark ingenuity can exploit well-intentioned legislation — by using an obscure water-safety law that lets the EPA head make crisis hires without White House or Senate approval to instead hire spokesmen, schedulers and former lobbyists. That allows the lobbyists to evade one of Trump’s first directives, that new employees sign an ethics pledge not to work on an issue on which they lobbied for two years. Pruitt also circumvented White House rejection of his plan to give two staffers raises of 33 and 52 percent by reappointing them under the same law.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of impersonating a president, with a massive refurbished desk that staffers compare to the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, and with the flashing lights and sirens he likes his motorcade to use, and with his request for a bulletproof SUV with tires that still work after being hit with gunfire.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of quelling dissent by demoting, reassigning or forcing out five aides who questioned his spending and management practices.
Pruitt has done a fantastic job of convincing people that his agency should be renamed the Industrial Protection Agency — by defanging, delaying or deleting regulations, thus allowing companies to put more pollutants in our air and water and harm the environment and people’s health.
Yup, Scott Pruitt has done such a fantastic job that no successor could ever dream of being as fantastic as Pruitt.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.