While Scott Pruitt’s tenure at EPA has been a major triumph of the rule of law over the regulatory state, Pruitt had managed to make his time there a constant drumbeat of mini-scandald, scandals of zero policy import but which serve to undermine his ability to run the agency. Most of these scandals are simply appearance issues. Not that appearances aren’t important but substance also counts. Now on Fathers Day weekend we have a new one: Scott Pruitt is a devoted father.
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) June 16, 2018
It seems that Pruitt is a long time friend of former speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William Howell and he asked Howell to write a letter of recommendation for his daughter, McKenna, for her admissions packet to the law school at University of Virginia. As it turns out, the New York Times has run a retraction of that claim after finding that Howell wrote the letter over a year before Pruitt came to EPA.
We have just posted an important correction on our EPA Pruitt story from Friday about the timing of a UVA law school letter of recommendation. Pruitt was still Oklahoma's AG. Not yet at EPA. Here is link to story with the correction. https://t.co/kIglWuJSfg
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) June 17, 2018
Having said that, asking a friend for a letter of recommendation for your daughter is hardly a scandal.
The second part of the picture is Pruitt trying to get his daughter a highly sought after White House internship:
At least three E.P.A. staff members were dispatched to help Mr. Pruitt’s daughter, McKenna, obtain a summer internship at the White House, the current and former staff members said.
Kevin Chmielewski, who was Mr. Pruitt’s deputy chief of staff for operations until February, recalled a conversation last year when Mr. Pruitt instructed him and other top aides to “see what you can do” about getting the internship, a highly competitive and prized post in Washington. Ms. Pruitt was selected as an intern last summer.
The central question, at least from my point of view, is if Mr. Chmielewski is offended by this now, why wasn’t he offended about it then? Top aides to a political appointee, who are usually political appointees themselves, routinely do this kind of thing. They act as the official “family” of the appointee and sometimes, at that level of responsibility, the personal and the official merge. Yes, Pruitt could have made the same inquiries himself, but it is hard to believe that the level of work here was much beyond making a couple of phone calls to find out who Pruitt’s daughter had to send he application to in order to get special handling. This is hardly the stuff of scandal.
What is interesting is that while the NYT takes the “improper use of staff” angle, Talking Points Memo uses the “pulled strings” approach. This is either dishonest (my vote) or stupid (I’m open to this either alone or in conjunction with dishonest). This is what father’s do. No matter what the left believes, life is not fair and everyone doesn’t have an equal opportunity. It is my job, as a Dad, to make sure that all the advantages and contacts I’ve accumulated through a life that has seen me get much further than anyone ever thought I would are harnessed to give my kids a running start at success. There is no contact that I have or string that I have access to that I won’t use or pull in order to get an advantage for my kids. I expect you do the same for yours.
I’m pretty much with President Trump’s estimation of Pruitt:
Trump responds to numerous Pruitt scandals: "I'm not happy about certain things, I'll be honest" pic.twitter.com/teCvQhG13K
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) June 15, 2018
I wish Pruitt would think twice about some of the things he does and be conscious of how they appear, not merely the actual legality or permissibility of the act. But these attacks on Pruitt for helping his daughter or asking a few top aides to make a few calls on her behalf are silly and an insult to fathers everywhere.