Updated on February 15 at 4:50 p.m. ET
President Donald Trump has a way with scandal. His biggest controversies are so huge, so ludicrously bamboozling, that they suck up much of the attention in the country. The smaller disputes facing his staff can therefore slip by unnoticed. In his three-week-old administration, perhaps no man has benefited from this more than Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the current attorney general of Oklahoma.
In the past week, Scott Pruitt has gotten sued by his own state’s ACLU, defied oversight requests from Senate Democrats, and ridden roughshod on his own state’s public-records law. In any other administration, that level of dispute might have made the front page. Now, Democrats will be lucky to cram it into the back of a news cycle before the Senate votes on Pruitt’s nomination at the end of this week.
This is a lost opportunity for anyone who cares about environmental protection at the national level. The nomination of Betsy DeVos, a Republican donor who appeared not to know about basic federal education law, led to constituents clogging Senate switchboards. But the EPA wields much more power over air and water pollution than the Department of Education does over schools. And unlike DeVos, Pruitt is a tireless and knowledgable advocate for his cause of cutting environmental protections. He knows the statutes that govern the EPA, and (like the Obama administration) he knows how to interpret them to bring about his policy ends.