Sad Paranoid Scott Pruitt Basically Howard Hughes Without The Kleenex Boxes On His Feet
Hurry, Smithers! Get this jar of urine to Robert Mercer! There is not a moment to be lost!
Scott Pruitt's political career should, by any measure of how Washington scandals usually go, be over, and he should have long since departed DC for a nice cushy job as an industry lobbyist, as if there's any meaningful difference between that job and EPA administrator under Trump. But Pruitt battles on, a lone hero of deregulation holding out against the backlash to his own sleazy grifting, because damn it, Donald Trump likes the job Pruitt has done in rolling back environmental protections put in place by Barack Obama and previous administrations. Oh, but these are not happy times for Pruitt, who, according to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, has "grown paranoid and isolated, and he only trusts a small handful of people at the agency." Think of the final years of Howard Hughes, locked up in a hotel penthouse and buying hotels on the Strip whose lights interrupted his sleep. Or maybe some failed Austrian artist in a bunker, insisting that victory is just around the corner, but with no amusing movie parodies in the offing.
We've known from the start that Pruitt had no use for career EPA employees, mired as they were in their Deep State mindset that the agency should "protect" the "environment," but Swan details how Pruitt has progressively shut out more and more political appointees who share Pruitt's belief that the EPA should be industry's best friend. Where Pruitt began his tenure having regular meetings with "dozens" of political appointees, by winter of 2017 he was meeting only with about 10 of his most-trusted staffers, and even that number has been shrinking -- Pruitt now only meets regularly with about five appointees, only one of whom, spokesperson Jahan Wilcox, is over the age of 30. Swan says Wilcox is "the only press aide Pruitt appears to trust," which may give us some insight into why chief spokesperson Liz Bowman said "Fuck this I'm outta here" and jumped ship for a job with the comparatively stable Joni Ernst.
And while Pruitt has never made his daily schedule public in advance -- reporters and open government types have had to FOIA it to find out which industry groups he's meeting with and giving speeches to -- he's now stopped telling EPA staff where he is and what he's doing:
Pruitt used to share his travel schedule with political appointees. Then, over the winter, he sent out a redacted schedule simply saying "travel." After that, he stopped sharing it altogether. Since his April 26 congressional testimony, senior staff outside his inner circle have had virtually no idea of his whereabouts.
The leadership in Pruitt's congressional affairs shop have complained to associates that they can't do their jobs. They've griped about complaints from members of Congress when the members find out after the fact that Pruitt has visited their state or congressional district. The embarrassing reality for Pruitt's legislative affairs team is they had no idea either.
Mind you, the trusted press aide, Jahan Wilcox, says that latter point isn't true at all, offering a whopping two examples of Pruitt meeting with House members in their districts over the past few months, so there.
Among the political appointees Pruitt has abandoned to their own devices, there's a sense of having been not just cut out of the loop, but of having no idea where the loop even went. Possibly the loop is on one of those cool European junkets Pruitt can't get away with himself with all the attention on him these days. His chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, is responsible for the continued day-to-day work of dismantling the EPA, but "rarely knows where his boss is" because Jackson is not one of The Chosen Five. "Multiple sources" told Swan that Pruitt and Jackson simply don't trust each other, a situation Donald Trump no doubt finds kind of endearing.
Best single paragraph in the whole thing:
"All of us have been frozen out over time," one EPA political appointee told me. "It's absolutely unreal working here. Everyone's miserable. Nobody talks. It's a dry wall prison."
If "Dry Wall Prison" isn't a fake Johnny Cash tune on YouTube by the end of the week, we will be very disappointed. We won't be surprised, however, if Pruitt continues to run the EPA from inside a bunker (even if it's not a SCIF), because as Ollie North said of Ronald Reagan, the Old Man loves his ass.
And even though Pruitt is now on the verge of transcending the physical plane (on which he always flies first class), notes Swan, the EPA's mission of toadying to industry is now so well-established that he doesn't really need to come to the office anymore. Like a rogue AI in a science fiction story, the job of dismantling regulations, once begun, will now continue until the EPA building itself is torn down and replaced with an open pit coal mine. No, the lack of discernible coal deposits under DC is no impediment to that.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.