The Perversity of Pruitt

30 years ago today, in a New Hampshire campaign appearance, Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis declared, “We need someone in the White House who understands that America should be the leader on international environmental questions.” Had Dukakis—who denounced Republican opponent George H. W. Bush as “a charter member of the environmental wrecking crew that went to Washington in the early ’80s and did a job on the EPA”—won the 1988 Presidential contest, perhaps we would have been a bit further along in combating the international crisis of human-caused climate change. Of course, 30 years ago no one could have imagined that someone as malevolent towards Mother Nature as Donald Trump would become President—and appoint an EPA head who believes CO2 is good for you:

As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus that rising levels of carbon dioxide from human-fueled activity are warming the planet.

He’s now taking a different tack: Even if climate change is occurring, as the vast majority of scientists say it is, a warmer atmosphere might not be so awful for humans, according to Pruitt.

“We know humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends,” Pruitt said Tuesday during an interview on KSNV, an NBC affiliate in Las Vegas. “So I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

Pruitt continued: “There are very important questions around the climate issue that folks really don’t get to. And that’s one of the reasons why I’ve talked about having an honest, open, transparent debate about what do we know, what don’t we know, so the American people can be informed and they can make decisions on their own with respect to these issues.”

When you hear this filth, you begin to understand why climate hawks were upset when Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) failed to specifically mention the climate crisis on his list of Trump administration offenses. Democrats should be weaponizing the actions of Pruitt and his fellow fossil-fuel fiend, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke; the actions of Pruitt and Zinke constitute imminent threats to the health and safety of human beings in this country and elsewhere.

35 years ago, President Reagan washed his hands of EPA head Anne Gorsuch—the mother of you-know-who—and Interior Secretary James Watt. Gorsuch’s corruption simply became too much of a political headache for Reagan; as for Watt, Peter Dykstra notes that his tenure ended after one Trumpian remark too many:

One of [Watt’s] ugliest quips came in 1981, foreshadowing the Bundy takeovers years later: “If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used.”

Watt suggested that the Interior Department’s logo, featuring a bison facing to the left, should be flipped so the bison faced right. A herald of the partisan environmental divide we now face, Watt said where most saw Washington divided into Democrats and Republicans, he saw “Liberals and Americans.”

Finally, a particularly unfunny joke told during a speech to the U.S Chamber of Commerce did him in. Bragging about the diversity among a coal leasing panel, Watt quipped, “We have every mixture you can have. I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.”

President Reagan received his resignation soon after.

Could Trump be pressured to get rid of Pruitt and Zinke? After the stunning withdrawal of Kathleen Hartnett White’s nomination as head of the Council of Environmental Quality, anything’s possible. However, even if they are forced to leave, the damage that they have done to the EPA and Department of the Interior will remain. To rework the famous Shakespeare line, the evil these two men did will certainly live on after them.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.