Scott Pruitt’s Journey from Bologna to Baloney
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s trip to Bologna this weekend for the G-7 Environment Ministers Meeting was bound to be awkward, coming less than two weeks after President Trump stuck his finger in the world’s eye on the Paris Climate Agreement.
Pruitt added insult to insult-and-injury.
The man who’s turned EPA’s twitter feed into “Where’s Waldo” did not disappoint on his spring break trip to Italy. He posted 13 pictures of himself on topics ranging from pasta and prosciutto to the rule of law—something he has difficulty with at home.
Given Trump’s Paris withdrawal decision and his rough treatment of our closest allies, Pruitt was bound to find himself isolated. Sure enough, in Monday’s communique the other G7 environment ministers, from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union, reaffirmed their “strong commitment to the swift and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement, which remains the global instrument for effectively and urgently tackling climate change and adapting to its effects.”
Pointedly recognizing the groundswell of support for the Paris Agreement from U.S. states, cities, and companies and the American public, they “welcome[d] the continued support that the Paris Agreement has received from other countries, and subnational and non-state actors around the world.” And rejecting Trump’s sham proposal to renegotiate the deal, they agreed “that the Paris agreement is irreversible and its full integrity is key for the security and prosperity of our planet, societies and economies.”
The Trump administration’s contrarian view was set off in a footnote, oddly beginning “We the United States of America.” (Does the “we” signify Pruitt’s federalist view that he represents a collective of state sovereigns, not one nation?) We the United States, it says, “do not join those sections of the communiqué on climate and [multilateral development banks], reflecting our recent announcement to withdraw and immediately cease implementation of the Paris Agreement and associated financial commitments.”
After first claiming the Administrator had been called back to Washington unexpectedly for a cabinet meeting, his spokesman later said the premature departure was planned all along.
How to lose friends and stop influencing people.
And how bizarre a cabinet meeting! All the president’s men and women assembled to pledge their undying loyalty to the Dear Leader. Trump himself set the tone: “Never has there been a president, with few exceptions … who has passed more legislation, done more things.” (The president pronounced the Senate Democrats “obstructionists,” a word he probably should not use.) He then asked (expressed his “hope”?) for each cabinet member to “report” on their activities.
There followed an amazing display, worthy of North Korea, of grown men and women extolling and affirming Trump’s astonishing achievements. Vice President Pence proclaimed it “the greatest privilege of my life” to serve with Trump. Others vied with superlatives, pronouncing themselves: “honored,” “thrilled,” “privileged,” and “proud.” Chief of Staff Reince Priebus topped all, declaring himself “blessed.”
When his turn came, Administrator Pruitt proved as good as any at sucking up to the boss. He told Trump he’d just come back from Bologna where he delivered "the message there that the United States will be focused on growth and protecting the environment,"
And then he added, in a boldfaced lie: “It was received well.” Baloney.
I digress to report the wise words of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, freshly back from the Green Energy Ministerial in China, where he was upstaged by California Governor Jerry Brown. China’s President Xi met with Brown, not Perry, to reaffirm China’s support for the Paris Agreement.
Perry “stepped” in it, reporting that he’d told the Chinese why “America was steppin’ back from the Paris Accord”—“not steppin’ back” but “steppin’ in.” We’re sending messages, he said, that “we’re still gonna be leaders in the world when it comes to climate” and—weirdly—that “we’re not going to be held hostage to some executive order that was ill thought out.”
Was this a Freudian slip? Perhaps a subliminal reference to Trump’s anti-climate executive order? Oops.
Coincidentally, Trump’s job approval in the Gallup Poll fell yesterday to 36%, one point from his record low, with a new high of 59% disapproving. The 23%-negative gap is the biggest of his presidency.
This is all easy to make fun of, but Trump and his minions are doing deadly serious damage to America’s credibility in the world, and to our chances of staving off the worst effects of climate change.
This is too big for Trump to tear down. Add your voice!