“Well Done, Good and Faithful Scott Pruitt”
There was some great science news this month: a neutrino was discovered in Antarctica and traced to a galaxy 3.7 billion light-years away, providing a fascinating glimpse at the age of the universe and Earth’s place in it. I would love to talk more about this, but I lack the knowledge and skill. Instead, I’ll talk about Scott Pruitt! President Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency finally resigned on July 6, which could be considered a victory for science given how opposed he was to it. The Hypocrites Trinity for Trump’s evangelical base was Mike Pence (representing the belief that zygotes and blastocysts deserve more rights than women and queer people), Betsy DeVos (representing how anyone worth at least one billion dollars must be blessed by god), and Scott Pruitt, who represented a rejection of all the science and intellectualism that makes people of faith look stupid. He held Bible studies with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who uses the same verses that justified slavery to keep children in cages, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, who believes the pyramids of Giza are grain silos from the Book of Genesis.
The antipathy to scientific fact held by the evangelical community cannot be overstated. Positing themselves as the protectors of objective truth because of their adherence to biblical principles, they seek to undermine that which is legitimately objective, namely scientific fact, at every turn. One of the first books I ever owned was a gift from my aunt and had a picture on the cover of dinosaurs being led onto Noah’s Ark. My cousin, her daughter, told me that her main reason for doubting climate change is because it isn’t mentioned in the Book of Revelation and she believes we’re living in the End Times, which may be the one thing on which many people here agree with her.
Scott Pruitt exited as he served: stupidly and obsequiously. In a resignation letter signed “Your Faithful friend,” he described the president’s confidence in him as something that “has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration.” “I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity,” he continued, “My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people.” It goes on from there, but I don’t have the stomach to do so.
He became the head of the EPA because he denies climate change, but he quickly became known for scandal. Spending taxpayer money on a forty-three thousand dollar soundproof phone booth, a 4.6 million dollar security detail, a fifty-dollar-a-night condo rented from a lobbyist’s wife, providing unauthorized raises, keeping two separate calendars (possibly three)… That’s an incomplete list, not including the five ethics investigations he was under at the time of his resignation! And not even the pettiest bullshit, like how he was asked to stop eating so frequently at the White House cafeteria. In the cartoonish workplace sitcom that is this administration, unfunny because it is so evil, Scott Pruitt was the guy hiding a steak under some lettuce leaves and trying to pay for a salad. I wouldn’t be surprised if we learned that he went to state dinners with his pockets lined with plastic bags in order to steal gravy. When a woman confronted him in a restaurant, he was probably secretly pleased to have an excuse to run out on the check. But on July 6, 2018, Scott Pruitt resigned. His scandals caught up with him and he had no other choice. Just kidding!
The exact reason is unclear, but we know it wasn’t that! He okayed a 3% increase on ethanol fuel quotas for 2019, which pissed off farmers, who represent an even larger voting bloc for Trump than people who believe dinosaur bones were placed in the ground by Satan. Another theory is that he resigned because word got out that he was campaigning to be Attorney General, which must have made those Bible studies with Jeff Sessions awkward. If that had happened, we probably wouldn’t be facing a religious liberty task force, but a task force to help Scott Pruitt steal office furniture.
Scott Pruitt was as incompetent as he was corrupt, and that’s saying something. He successfully convinced Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords, but we can’t do that until 2020. He wanted to go after the Auto Fuel Efficiency Rule, the Clean Water Rule, and the Clean Power Plan, but none of that happened because of court challenges. Even his “fuck you” move on the way out the door, scaling back regulation against super-polluting “glider” semi trucks, condemned by both truckers and environmental activists, was put on hold by the U.S. Court of Appeals. But these were seen as victories, not just by politicians and capitalists who believe all regulation must end but by the Christians who believe climate change is merely a distraction to get people to stop focusing on their souls. Meanwhile, wildfires broke out in the Arctic Circle this week. Floods and deadly heat have struck Japan within two weeks. Reporters invented the term fire tsunami to describe what’s been going on in Colorado.
The EPA is one of the few things for which we have to thank Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon, despite his corruption. Scott “definitely a crook” Pruitt provided a whole Harding Administration’s worth of corruption in just one man! (That joke would’ve killed in the thirties.) At least the guy who orchestrated the Teapot Dome scandal was a millionaire by the standards of his day.
Pruitt tried to get a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife (although all he wanted was a job for her that paid “at least” two hundred thousand dollars a year). When asked about that pathetic excuse of a scandal, he prattled on about how it’s a “franchise of faith.” If he had tried to get his wife an Arby’s, he would’ve been gone that much sooner! This is why I thought Scott Pruitt would not be going anywhere. If this presidency has proved anything, it’s how the evangelical community will look past all manner of graft and unethical behavior if it means they get their way.
I wasn’t able to find the part of the Bible that states “the ends justify the means.” Matthew 25:23 reads, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many things.” This could refer to the stewardship over the Earth outlined in the Book of Genesis, which no one but these people takes literally. The irony that this could inspire conviction over treating the Earth poorly will forever be lost on them; irony is not their strong suit. Instead, Scott Pruitt is seen as having been faithful over the EPA and he will be rewarded with heaven in the next life and an enjoyable retirement from public service in this one.
I wish I could end on a hopeful note, but the corruption in this administration runs deep. Current acting EPA leader and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler already has scandals to deal with. Worse, he may be good at his job and get stuff done instead of treating the federal government like a scuzzy college roommate trying to glom favors. Nothing he will want to get done will be good.
Our previous Republican president, George W. Bush, once said that “freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion” but for those in charge of the federal government it should be. Our representative democracy has been hijacked by people who want to transform it into a theocracy, and who will accept pandering from transparent hypocrites to do so. It’s better to have people in charge who want to go to the Smithsonian Institute than the Creation Museum.