In our increasingly polarized country, it’s hard to find anything on which the red and blue factions can agree. For example, I recently made the mistake of assuming that everyone from both sides of the political divide could at least agree that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was massively corrupt and had to go.
After all, before his forced resignation on July 5, Pruitt, a former attorney general of Oklahoma, had generated months of negative headlines with a never-ending list of alleged improprieties in office, many of them serious enough to warrant official investigation. As of his departure last week, some 13 different federal inquiries were scrutinizing Pruitt’s allegedly unethical, and possibly illegal, management and spending practices.
Even conservative Republicans in recent weeks have joined in condemning Pruitt’s official misbehavior. Before Pruitt’s resignation, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, launched an investigation into Pruitt’s activities while directing the EPA, and other prominent GOP lawmakers publicly chastised Pruitt. This included U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who in early June said Pruitt was “about as swampy as you get” in D.C. Perhaps the most damning for Pruitt was right-wing talk radio avatar Laura Ingraham tweeting on July 3, “Pruitt is the swamp. Drain it.”
So, yes, Scott Pruitt accomplished the nearly impossible – joining Red and Blue in a dreamy union of ire and disgust. We must all celebrate these small victories for amity and bipartisanship.
But acknowledging the swamp stink emanating in odious waves from Scott Pruitt was a bridge too far for some on the right. This includes some of his biggest cheerleaders in the fossil-fuel industry, the slick lords of greed who are accumulating mountains of money thanks to Pruitt’s gleeful dismantling of the environmental regulatory apparatus.
For several years, I’ve subscribed to an online news aggregator/newsletter that serves the oil and gas industry in the Marcellus-Utica shale region, which Athens County is a part of, albeit not tangibly thus far, other than several injection wells for fracking waste water.
The Marcellus Drilling News site (motto: “We Help People & Businesses Profit from Northeast Shale Drilling”) has been immensely helpful in following this issue, linking to articles with accurate, hard facts about various deep-shale oil and gas developments in our region. I’ve gleaned dozens of tips on oil and gas stories of local or regional concern from MDN over the years.
Unfortunately, one has to hold one’s nose before arriving at the linked articles, since the editorial “we” who curates and introduces the articles makes Rush Limbaugh seem like a squishy liberal.
The Marcellus Drilling News, for instance, never resists the temptation to add a ridiculing adjective or phrase to any reference to global climate change or environmental groups (e.g., “this fairy tale of catastrophic global warming” or “the environmentalist whackos” at the Environmental Defense Fund, or of course, every Trumpy’s favorite, “the fake news”).
In this petrol-soaked fantasy world, longtime fiscal conservative Ohio Gov. John Kasich is an unforgivably liberal “RINO” (Republican in Name Only), and both Presidents Bush aren’t much better.
Anyway, back to Scott Pruitt.
On July 6, the MDN published an article about Pruitt’s forced resignation. Whereas hardly anyone in media or politics was disputing Pruitt’s spectacular record of corruption, this was the MDN’s take on the matter:
“We doubt Pruitt has done anything that merits his dismissal. He’s certainly done nothing worse than hundreds (thousands?) of Democrats that infested the Obama Administration. Gina McCarthy, as EPA Administrator, committed crimes while in office that were totally ignored by the media. The difference between McCarthy and Pruitt is a biased and partisan mainstream media that’s hounded Pruitt from Day One – because he’s draining the swamp… D.C. belongs to Swamp Dwellers – and they don’t let outsiders like Pruitt, or Trump, forget it…”
This is pure balderdash, mimicking our president’s three main go-to strategies for reconfiguring reality and avoiding accountability:
1. Deflection. The irrelevant and exaggerated reference to Obama’s EPA administrator is the nauseatingly familiar “but Hillary’s emails…” tactic that’s so common among Trump and his supporters when faced with accusations of corruption or dishonesty. Don't address the facts of any allegation; change the subject instead.
2. Blame the media. The reference to the “biased and partisan mainstream media” must mean all of the news media in the country (and world) that’s been covering this story, including the media that have been quoting Laura Ingraham and other Republican stalwarts about Pruitt’s “swampiness.”
3. Ignore the actual allegations against Scott Pruitt, the sort of stuff that Republicans exploded in indignation over when Obama was president (though folks in Obama’s administration were mere C-level minor leaguers compared to Pruitt’s Major League All-Star corruption [or that of his boss]).
For a complete recounting of the swampy activities (aka, influence-peddling, log-rolling, misspending and all-round corruption) that Scott Pruitt engaged in while heading the EPA, it’s not hard to find the grimy laundry list online. If you’ve listened to the news over the past year, you’ve likely heard most of it. Very few of the allegations have been plausibly disputed.
Oh, and then there’s that other small matter – aggressively retreating from any effort to join the cooperative global effort to counter climate change, while dismantling domestic environmental regulations that have been protecting our water and air for many decades. One could argue – I would argue – that those are far more serious violations of ethics, morality and principle than all the greedy, self-dealing crap that Pruitt has been engaged in.
On the other hand, I sure hope the MDN doesn't toss me from their subscription base for writing this piece. They do great work compiling useful news on the oil and gas industry in the Ohio and points East when not indulging in sophomoric ideological attacks.