EPA head Scott Pruitt resigned yesterday in the wake of a dozen corruption accusations. His resignation letter is puffed up and implies that God backs both Trump and Pruitt, who did nothing wrong. Hmm . . .
If you want to know the complete list of what Scott Pruitt did wrong, from spending $43,000 of taxpayer money on a cone of silence for his office to asking an aide to find a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife, read Frank Bruni’s witty takedown in the Times.
If you want to know about the work he was actually doing while he was at EPA, read this list of environmental rules that were scrapped while he was in office.
If you want to know what the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington thinks, read its entire statement, reprinted below:
But enough about other people. If you want Pruitt’s point of view, read his 272-word resignation letter to Trump. I’ve shared it here, with my translation.
Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA. Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration. Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends.
Translation: We had a good thing going for a while. By using the phrase “courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment,” I get to praise the same pigheadedness three different ways. We cut back 76 environmental rules, from rolling back groundwater protections for uranium mines to eliminating programs to keep children safe from lead paint, in ways that will surely make businesses more profitable; any harm to the air, land, water, and people’s health will happen long after you’re out of office. And by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, we’ve ensured that any environmental leadership will come from other countries while torpedoing the idea of multi-country agreements in general. Score!
That is why is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6. It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.
Translation: The goddam press apparently doesn’t like an EPA head behaving like a rich person in control of company resources. As a result, you figured out that my scandalous behavior was more of a liability than my work dismantling environmental regulations. So you asked me to resign. It was becoming a drag, anyway.
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. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.
Translation: God made me do it.
Your Faithful Friend,
Translation: Keep me in mind for something profitable that you do in the future.
Rules for resigning
This letter is reminiscent of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s self-serving resignation letter after lying to Trump about his contacts with Russians. In both cases, the officials resigning after screwing up use the letter to kiss up to Trump and inflate their own accomplishments. If you’re resigning in disgrace, this is outrageous.
Perhaps the most notable feature of Pruitt’s letter is its religious nature. It uses “bless,” “blessing,” or “blessed” four times; “God” twice; “providence” twice; and “pray” — 3% of the whole letter is dedicated to godly words.
Here are some quick rules for how to resign responsibly:
- Keep it short. “With this letter, I am resigning my post as XXXX” is usually sufficient.
- Don’t praise yourself. You screwed up, or you wouldn’t be resigning.
- Don’t blame the press for finding out what you did, or for the consequences that follow from those revelations.
- Thanking the boss once is sufficient.
- Leave God out of it. Take responsibility for yourself. If you are very religious, you are allowed to mention God once, but you may not to implicate him in your own behavior and decisions.
- Your career is ruined. Don’t make it worse by rambling on.
A loyal public servant serves the country first and his leader second — and himself last. That’s why his resignation should be short — because once you’re gone, drawing attention to yourself just makes things worse.