Scott Pruitt, who has been serving as the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, has been under a media microscope on a near-constant basis since the beginning of his tenure.
Liberal activists and the media see a Republican administration overall as bad for the environmentalist movement, and Trump in particular as a dangerous specter of death for the Obama Era policies that made the EPA so controversial – policies to grab waterways, choke business and industry, and wreak havoc on capitalism in general.
Pruitt, to his credit, has been an effective administrator in this regard. Between Trump’s executive orders and Pruitt’s work at the EPA, many of these policies have been or are currently being rolled back.
The Weekly Standard, despite this success, has made a solemn proclamation: Scott Pruit should resign.
Pruitt’s use of public money for non-essential purposes has become a pattern. He’s used taxpayer dollars to purchase lavish dinners and accommodations in five-star hotels; a new, expensively retrofitted Chevrolet Suburban; first-class flights, domestic and foreign, for himself and his security detail; a massive security entourage; “special hiring authority” pay raises for favored staff; and costly office renovations (this last violated two laws, according to the Government Accountability Office). None of these profligacies, taken by itself, would present a major political problem. But together, they present a major one.
Consider, too, reports that Pruitt leased a condominium owned by the wife of an energy-industry lobbyist at a significantly reduced rate, and demoted and/or reassigned EPA staff who raised objections about the administrator’s large expenditures. Again: Neither offense, taken on its own, would necessarily prompt a fair-minded observer to conclude that Pruitt should be fired. Taken together, one begins to wonder why Pruitt’s still in office.
And the Standard may have a point: A lot of Pruitt’s media scrutiny is invited at this point. As they state, many of the original hits on Pruitt had no merit, but his more recent criticisms do.
The question now becomes this: What will Donald Trump do? He has stood by Pruitt so far, because his first instinct is to do the opposite of whatever the media says or implies. However, Pruitt is dangerously close to becoming the very thing that has gotten so many others fired from the Trump Administration: He is taking up too much of the media spotlight.
As Pruitt’s mistakes continue to pile up, the messenger will get in the way of the message, and that is not something Trump tolerates very well. In an administration rife with gaffes, controversy, and potential scandal (the latter, at least, in the media’s eyes), if you are hogging the headlines, you are in the way.
That is going to be Pruitt’s biggest sin, in Trump’s eyes, and that will ultimately be what leads to his departure, should he resign or get fired.
As to the question of whether he should or not… I couldn’t tell you. I think Trump can find someone as effective as Pruitt, but at the same time, firing him or asking for his resignation could show a sign of weakness. If Pruitt does so on his own, it’s the same weakness. It shows the media and the activists that they can win these fights, and it will push them to go after Trump appointees even harder.
However, Trump could do with some more positive media coverage in the short term as it might help a bit with the midterms. It will be much harder after the midterms, after all, to get a nomination through a much more feisty Senate.