While we continue to debate whether Donald Trump is an idiot or a halfwit, and whether (as Maureen Dowd wrote today in the New York Times) he’s a sexist pig or just a regular one, great damage is being done to our country by one of his first appointees: Scott Pruitt.
Pruitt, you’ll remember, was the Oklahoma politician who spent most of his career suing the EPA, which he now heads. Unlike the president, Pruitt is a smart guy who knows how to get things done and who has friends in high places, mostly on the boards of every power- and energy-producing corporation in this country.
Since his appointment, Pruitt’s résumé looks something like this:
- he has begun to dismantle the Clean Power Plan which limited the amount of pollution power plants could emit;
- he has stripped away the limits on mercury and other neurotoxins, again benefiting power plants by removing restrictions that negatively affect their bottom line;
- he actively lobbied the White House to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Done;
- he has removed key pollution and climate data from the EPA web site.No sense cluttering up environmental issues with scientific facts;
- he has claimed that carbon dioxide is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
- he has populated the EPA with appointees whose conflicts of interest would be laughable were it not so dire:
- Nancy Beck oversees the chemical industry, whose main lobbying organization she used to represent;
- Justin Schwab, now a top lawyer at the EPA, previously represented a coal utility.
- Christian Palich, another coal lobbyist, now heads the EPA’s Congressional relations office.
All this in five months…while we debate the psychological preparedness of the president to in fact be the president, or come rushing to the aid of TV journalists, or begin every conversation with “did you hear what that idiot did today?”
Undeniably there’s some catharsis in what we do and how we react, but when children’s breathing problems increase and cases of asthma multiply, and when sea levels rise at an even more alarming pace (and recent studies paint a bleak picture), it won’t be the fault of some clown punching a CNN logo, but the work of the clown’s appointees. And unlike some of them—DeVos, Price, Carson, et al. who threaten much that is admirable in the American way of life, Pruitt’s damage is more far-reaching: he threatens the planet.
No clown can do that, but he can distract us while it’s happening.