Mind you, in any other White House he likely would have been fired for even one of the list of ethical messes (insisting on flying first class to avoid irate voters, building a $43,000 soundproof booth, running up $120,000 on European travel). But then it is hard to imagine any other president hiring someone who doubts climate change science, is keen on rolling back gas mileage standards and preventing California from keeping its standards high. (Pruitt announced, “Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country.” It actually means California should be able to be more environmentally responsible if that is its preference.)
President Trump gave a less than full-throated endorsement to his EPA chief in front of reporters Tuesday. “I hope he’s going to be great,” Trump said. Umm “going to be”?
You might wonder how Pruitt remains in place. (I’m typing this quickly for fear he might be gone by the time I reach the end of the next paragraph.) Well, there are five criteria, I would suggest, that determine whether a senior adviser gets booted: 1.) Does he bore or annoy Trump? 2.) Has he been caught insulting Trump (The “moron” problem)? 3.) Does he show any independence of thought, suggest Trump is wrong about something or try to rely on independent factual data to make his points? 4.) Does he have a sexual assault/harassment problem which might remind voters Trump has a long list of accusers? 5.) Does he make Trump look bad by not managing his department?
In the case of Pruitt, so far only the fifth factor applies (as far as we know). The important element running through all the firing criteria is not competence, gravitas or ethical purity. Heavens no. The common word in all five is “Trump.” It’s always and only about him.