Op-ed: The unwilling exit strategy

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018 10:26am
  • Opinion

In spite of all the controversy about Scott Pruitt’s cushy D.C. condo, it’s entirely appropriate that he was getting a sweetheart deal on a place to sleep. After all, for his entire political career, he’s been in bed with the special business interests who resist any and all government efforts to protect against their ravaging of the environment.

In Oklahoma, as a state senator, then attorney general, and now the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Pruitt has been a stalwart opponent of any regulation that would get in the way of the energy companies that have been his patrons. They and their extremist advocates have rewarded his efforts on their behalf handsomely.

Now that he has brought their bought-and-paid-for agenda to Washington, he has turned the EPA into the “Environmental Punishment Agency.” He has been dismantling clean-planet rules left and right, and dogmatically ignoring climate change science as he represents big business in pushing President Donald Trump’s anti-regulation agenda.

He’s also been living large, or trying to. His ridiculously cheap living arrangement at a lobbyist-owned apartment within spitting distance of the Capitol has been exposed by media reports, so he violated scoundrel rule No. 1 — which, of course, is “don’t get caught.” He was charged $50 dollars a night, far, far below market rate in D.C., but even with all the industry largesse, he’s gotten greedy. And clumsy.

In fact, Pruitt is quickly becoming legendary, even by Washington’s dreary standards. His insistence on spending $40,000-plus of taxpayer money to construct a soundproof telephone room at his agency for his use was just one embarrassment. Until the drumbeat of criticism got too loud, he insisted on flying first class. EPA policy requires economy seating, with permission granted for an upgrade in exceptional circumstances. The “exceptional circumstance” his PR people finally settled on was that security concerns dictated he fly first class; he argued that being in the front of the plane would shield him from threatening passengers. Apparently, it’s a dangerous jungle in the back.

He’s now grudgingly seated in the fetal position with the scary riff-raff in the back, even though his people have explored renting a private jet to fly him around in style. That idea was hastily abandoned when word got out, in spite of his best efforts to stiff what he calls the “toxic” media. They ask too many impertinent questions.

He’s adopted a policy of avoiding any but the friendliest, churning out interviews with the likes of Fox News and the right-wing Washington Times. However, even the Fox News interview was awkward, with correspondent Ed Henry asking tougher questions than he expected. He fumbled them, plain and simple. Looking bad on TV is the original sin in the Gospel According to Donald Trump.

So down at Casa Blanca, el presidente is trying to determine whether all the bad publicity is enough to add Scott Pruitt to the list of those he must replace. On the one hand, Pruitt has been shamelessly effective at gutting environment-saving regulations at the EPA. That pleases POTUS, who insists he has full confidence in Pruitt.

But is that the Don Trump Kiss of Death? The indicators are becoming familiar. The president and maybe chief of staff John Kelly assure the unfortunate one that they have his back. At the same time, Sarah Huckabee Sanders or another White House-designated knife-wielder makes it clear that they possibly mean that his back is there to stab. So here was Sanders, making sure reporters knew: “We’re reviewing the situation. When we have had a chance to have a deeper dive on it, we’ll let you know the outcomes of that.”

Scott Pruitt may be the next to take the dive … with concrete. If he’s smart, even while he struggles to stay on, he’ll be making sure all those wealthy special interests are there when he leaves power, so he can cash in his chits.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

Kate Troll (Courtesy Photo / Kate Troll)
Opinion: The real ‘at last!’ on climate change

In Alaska, the Inflation Reduction Act offers come game-changing features.

The official ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Division of Elections)
Voices of the Peninsula: Check out the ballot before you vote

This kind of ballot is not something you have seen before.

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Why I’m voting for Walker

Walker is the only candidate with the potential to govern effectively for all Alaskans.

Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16 GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Nick Begich is who Alaska and America need now

It is in Alaska’s best interest to elect a member of the Republican party

Michael Heimbuch attends a memorial service for the late Drew Scalzi on Aug. 5, 2005, at the Seafarers Memorial on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Point of View: King salmon: The clash of culture and science

People do some pretty awful things to king salmon stocks

State Sen. Josh Revak (Photo provided)
The time has come to end Big Tech’s rule

The hope is that the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992) will come to the Senate floor for a vote

Lieutenant governor candidate Edie Grunwald speaks at a Charlie Pierce campaign event at Paradisos restaurant in Kenai on Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Election Integrity: An Alaskan question with an Alaskan answer

A needless round of feel-good meetings and what-if conversations will be a thing of the past

This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’m a longtime educator, and I’m supporting Walker/Drygas

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Congress could keep health insurance costs from rising, but it has to act fast

The cost of health insurance will rise substantially next year for about 13 million Americans

The offical ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Divison of Elections)
Opinion: Alaskans deserve an election system that represents our differences

The new system’s goal is to make this election cycle transparent, secure and easy for all Alaskans to vote

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell (Courtesy)
Opinion: UAA’s career certificates are helping to fill Alaska’s workforce pipeline

At UAA, we are announcing a new suite of certificate programs responding to some of the state’s most critical needs