Don’t get distracted: The Pruitt tenure is actually a lesson in how to win

Don’t get distracted: The Pruitt tenure is actually a lesson in how to win
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, getting a word in edgewise. (Image: Screen grab of NBC News video, YouTube)

Scott Pruitt has resigned as EPA director, as Liberty Unyielding reported earlier today.  After months of allegations against Pruitt, we know this about what he is actually guilty of:

Nothing.

About the motives, character, and misdirected credulity of a whole bunch of other people, on the other hand, we now know quite a lot.

We know a number of things Pruitt is not guilty of; e.g., for starters, this, and this.  If everything he’s been accused of had to be aired and challenged in a courtroom, it’s a very good bet none of it would stand either the most basic evidentiary test, or a test of legal definition, as something the law even bothers with.

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We’ll see if any of Pruitt’s opportunistic accusers cares to pursue the allegations any further and give him the day in court he has never had, to deal in actual evidence and proof.

I’m betting against it.  The whole thing was a political smear campaign, relying on specious charges that would never have to be proven, sourced mainly to one person with a dubious history.  And Pruitt’s accusers need to refocus their resources now.  Pruitt himself is no longer in office; pursuing him has no policy payoff at this point.

It was always about that: disgruntled ideologues angry that Pruitt was implementing Trump’s policy.

Which is why this isn’t a setback.  Pruitt has accomplished a lot in the job.  In terms of Trump’s plan for “winning” until we just can’t take it anymore, nothing will change now with Pruitt’s departure.

In fact, when the whole process starts all over again, another EPA director will just weather slings and arrows as long as he can, continuing to roll back regulatory overreach and re-base the posture of the EPA, until he gets relieved by the next guy or gal after that.

That’s how you get things done in a hostile environment.  By not being suckered into the wrong fights.  None of us – certainly not you, dear reader – could keep a reputation intact under the onslaught Pruitt has endured over the last 18 months.  It takes very little to make someone seem like a sleazeball, and get members of Congress alarmed about how it all “looks.”  Indeed, it can be done with no real evidence at all.

But Pruitt stayed in the saddle taking potshots until relieved.  The important thing, from Trump’s perspective, wasn’t forcing Pruitt’s accusers to pony up in a sideline skirmish.  That would have been the sucker play.  The important thing was the action on the field: changing executive policy on implementing environmental regulation.  Pruitt got that done.  If he hadn’t been getting it done, that’s what would have caused Trump to give him the boot.

Some pundits are suggesting that Pruitt bowed out today because former Fox News executive Bill Shine has just moved in as Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications.  The premise is that Shine wants to clear the decks of troublesome communications (i.e., PR) issues.

That could be a valid read.  But, again, it’s a hollow, irrelevant victory for Trump’s ideological opponents.  They’ve knocked off one replaceable official.  Trump has reversed policies it took them years to be in a position to institute – policies they instituted against the original intent of Congress and without the agreement of the voters.

Trump has been working through Pruitt to cut the EPA’s budget, change its focus (from “climate change” theory to the more substantial, measurable arena of pollution and cleanliness), put sunlight on its bases for regulation, and rein in its rapidly accelerating arbitrariness.

The EPA ideologues can’t predict now when they will be in a position again to act with the arbitrary, overreaching power Congress never intended the agency to have.  That’s the real issue, and the real change.

I hope there will be vindication for Scott Pruitt down the road.  Anyone who thinks that another person could have avoided the campaign of vilification Pruitt has been subjected to, by somehow having no personal actions whatsoever that could be misrepresented, has learned nothing in the last 18 months.

Others are rightly disgusted by the treatment of Pruitt and the seeming defeat of this outcome.  Be disgusted; it’s the right sentiment.  But don’t worry about the seeming defeat.  The whole campaign against Pruitt didn’t stop the Trump administration’s changes to the EPA – changes that bring it back in line with what it was supposed to be.  That’s what matters.

“Climate change” ideologues have just expended a lot of energy trying to inflict an injury that didn’t matter.  And now Trump and his administration, with a back-up quarterback behind center at the EPA, are lining up for another march down the field on the same game plan.

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J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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