Thursday, July 05, 2018


I have yet to hear a convincing explanation why Scott Pruitt was finally egressed. John Fund's at Fox, expectedly, makes the least sense: "pressure rose for Pruitt to step down," he claims, "when his travails shifted from the merely humiliating to potential legal violations." This suggests -- from a normal person's point of view (which, I will explain in a minute, may not be the way to look at it) -- that Trump was aware of a year's worth of "humiliating" events and just shrugged them off, or told Pruitt to stop it and Pruitt said "sure t'ing boss" and got even worse, and Trump only noticed this week.

Fund suggests Pruitt having people falsify his official calendar was the back-breaking straw -- but he doesn't mention that it appears Pruitt fired one of his schedulers for making a stink about his fraud which, call me over-sensitive, I think makes it so much worse. Nor does Fund mention that Pruitt made his employees cover his hotel bills and then failed to pay them back. It's almost like Fund doesn't find it especially noteworthy when a made man in Trumpworld screws his poorer subordinates, which given what conservatives are like these days makes sense.

Anyway, Pruitt's maladministration of the EPA was terrible and will lead to lasting damage to the planet, but his successor will pretty much keep up the planet-killing work with a lower profile -- in the same way that, when high-living HHS Secretary Tom Price finally got too embarrassing to keep, they just slotted in pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar, who yakked about how he and his phrama buddies really wanted to keep drug prices down and who has overseen a bunch of price hikes which, Politico hilariously observes, "cast doubt on whether Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar can pressure manufacturers to voluntarily drop prices without the threat of specific consequences."

Well, bad, even destructive administration is par for the course with this lot, but Pruitt's trail of grifts is the stuff of legend and we should take a moment to marvel at and perhaps learn from it. It has long been my theory that Trump's administration is so overwhelmingly corrupt because a.) no one with anything to lose, reputation-wise, would have anything to do with him in the first place, and b.) there is honor among thieves, and Trump's understanding with them is, if he goes down they're going with him.

I still think that's about right, but the volume, scale, and exoticism of Pruitt's scandals -- his wild impulse purchases, from his cone of silence to his tactical pants; his muscling of business for personal favors; and his aforementioned, vicious exploitation of his employees -- are extraordinary even for this administration. Indeed, his behavior would seem, under normal circumstances, evidence of mental instability -- surely no one sane would go that far in a cabinet post under the full glare of national publicity.

Maybe so, but let us be charitable and imagine that Pruitt was not just greedy, but actually responsive to an existential imperative. Here he was, a man of limited talent of intelligence, not only placed far about his deserts and abilities but set among some of the greatest crooks of his time in the great candy shop of the public fisc. Being a Republican, he was already accustomed, indeed trained, to think of anything in a public Treasury as ransom held by liberal commies and queers that should by right and in the name of Reagan be liberated into the Private Sector, preferably through the medium of one's own pockets (doing good by doing well, haw!). And certainly when one is set about such work shoulder to shoulder with such as Ben Carson and Ryan Zinke, one is encouraged to go hard about it rather than gentle. What if Pruitt had a moment of poetic insight -- for these can happen to all kinds of people -- and saw, in the midst of otherwise quotidian graft, what this implied about life itself. Maybe he saw then that all was madness -- that men die and they are not happy -- and was driven by that insight to buy the tactical pants, to cheat even his own aides, to grift until even the God of grift said, no more. Let us at least accept the possibility that Pruitt was not merely greedy, but touched by the madness of Camus' Caligula.

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