Well, the votes are in, people, and the winner of our latest competition for Worst Member of the Trump Administration is …
Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency!
It was a landslide. To be fair, if we had included Donald Trump himself in the balloting, I’m sure the big guy would have swept the field – actually winning the popular vote for the first time in his presidential career.
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But pitted against his peers, Pruitt walloped the competition. The winner of our last Worst survey, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, hardly got a mention. She even came in behind Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a person whose only actual power is to be irritating while claiming the president was just joking/isn’t really going to do that/was totally misunderstood.
It’s pretty clear that DeVos’ slide was due to a growing public realization that she’s too inept to destroy the public school system, no matter how fervent the desire. Several of the other big names in the Cabinet got a similar pass. “Guess we can’t nominate Ben Carson because we don’t know what he does,” complained one reader. (This was before we learned that Carson’s signature achievement has been buying a $31,000 dining room set for his office.)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also fell off the charts, presumably because of his negative clout in the administration. Just the other day, Trump twittered a demand that the public “Ask Jeff Session!” why the Obama administration hadn’t stopped Russian meddling in the elections. If your boss doesn’t remember how to spell your name, no way we’re going to give you an award.
As usual, a lot of voters complicated our count by demanding to pick All of the Above. One reader suggested that if the swamp got really drained, “only the White House chef and maintenance crew will remain.”
There certainly were plenty of strong contenders – and the vote happened before we learned that Trump is pressing to have his personal pilot appointed head of the Federal Aviation Administration. But the biggest worry on people’s mind was the environment and Pruitt’s capacity to screw it up. His latest proposed budget would eliminate the EPA’s climate-change research program and even a government initiative promoting voluntaryemissions reductions.
Following the same theme, voters picked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke as runner-up. Zinke has bid adieu to five-sixths of the unpaid members of the National Park System Advisory Board – although it’s not actually clear that Zinke knows they’re gone, since he refused to meet with them.
“It is SO tough to pick one,” moaned a voter torn between Pruitt and Zinke.
Both men seem to have a particular obsession with flying in style. Pruitt’s round-the-clock security detail has conveniently decided that it’s dangerous for him to sit in coach. Their concern for the dangers he might encounter crammed in with the rank-and-file was so intense that Pruitt felt compelled to spend $1,641 of public money to sit up front on an exhausting one-hour flight from Washington to New York.
What is it with these people and travel?
You’ll remember at one point Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin tried to get a government plane for his honeymoon. The first head of Health and Human Services was canned because of his penchant for high-end transport. But Pruitt, unfazed, is still being spotted in first-class seating.
We the taxpayers paid for a $36,000 military flight to get Pruitt from Cincinnati to New York on one occasion when he felt particularly pressed for time. The trip was to promote infrastructure improvements, and the money the government spent just getting Pruitt out of Ohio could have paid for paving cracks in approximately 110 square miles of road.
Pruitt needs special seating, the EPA claims, because other travelers have begun to verbally assault him in the airports. On the one side we have a guy accompanied by guards, in an enclosed space inhabited only by people who have walked through metal detectors. On the other side there’s the danger of being yelled at by an environmentalist. Obviously, no price for protection is too high.
Zinke, whose department is considering a plan to more than double the entrance fee to the Grand Canyon, spent $6,250 to helicopter back from a meeting in Virginia so he could make a date to go horseback riding with Mike Pence. A staff member explained that the expense was well worthwhile since it enabled Zinke “to familiarize himself with the in-flight capabilities of an aircraft he is in charge of.”
We would like to tell you more, but the inspector general assigned to investigate Zinke’s possible travel transgressions says her report has been delayed by “incomplete documentation.” While we’re waiting, you will know whether he’s on the move because every day the secretary is in his office a security (!!) aide goes up on the roof and raises a special Secretary of the Interior flag, featuring a buffalo and some stars.
“Does our vote mean the winner goes away?” asked one reader plaintively. Sorry, no. But top finishers will get a special gold-embossed frequent flyer card.