Oklahoma City

The Pruitt Watch (Peat Fire)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

While the idea of a rioting dumpster fire experienced brief vogue among media commentators trying to describe the Donald Trump presidency, the slowburning, filthy corruption of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seems to describe something akin to a peat fire. The lede from the New York Times:

Since moving to Washington, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has attracted the attention of federal investigators because of his unusual association with lobbyists, including his rental of a condominium last year owned by the wife of a lobbyist with business before the E.P.A.

As a state senator in Oklahoma 15 years ago, Mr. Pruitt went even further: He bought a home in the state capital with a registered lobbyist who was pushing for changes to the state’s workers’ compensation rules—changes that Mr. Pruitt championed in the legislature.

And as with the condominium rental in Washington, Mr. Pruitt never publicly disclosed his financial relationship with the lobbyist, who, like Mr. Pruitt, lived in the home when in Oklahoma City on business.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, on Capitol Hill, 26 April 2018, in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)But if for some reason the Pruitt Watch seems frustrating, or even verges toward incomprehensible, perhaps the striking report from The Atlantic suggests a flashpoint:

As Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces a seemingly endless stream of scandal, his team is scrambling to divert the spotlight to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And the White House isn’t happy about it.:

In the last week, a member of Pruitt’s press team, Michael Abboud, has been shopping negative stories about Zinke to multiple outlets, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the efforts, as well as correspondence reviewed by The Atlantic.

“This did not happen, and it’s categorically false,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

To the other, an unnamed White House official claiming knowledge of the situation explained: “Absolutely nothing Scott Pruitt did would surprise me.” And, yes, that last might as well include, the prospect of the EPA Administrator simply persisting and enduring, though the article did not.

(more…)

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Oklahoma Governance

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), in May 2015. (image: KFOR)

There are days, you know, when it is really easy to pick on an idea. Take Oklahoma for instance. Last week we learned about the strangeness of Oklahoma virtue, and then a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) found himself blaming Texas for protests in Durant and Oklahoma City demonstrating support for the Confederacy as President Obama arrived.

Talk about a trifecta; this also happened:

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and the GOP-led legislature announced they’re prepared to ignore the state Supreme Court, at least for now, while they consider new solutions.​

The Republican governor talked to reporters, saying roughly what you’d expect her to say: she’s “disappointed” with the court’s decision; she thinks they made the wrong call; etc. But as KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, reported, Fallin added one related thought that wasn’t expected at all:​

Gov. Fallin said she believes the final decision on the monument’s fate should rest with the people.​

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. So I’m hoping that we can address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide,” she said.​

The KFOR report added, “Despite what the governor said, the three branches of government include the legislative, executive and judicial branches” ....​

.... We can certainly hope that Fallin, a former multi-term member of Congress, knows what the three branches of government are. Indeed, in Oklahoma, she’s the head of one of them – the one she left out this week.​

(Benen)

This is actually one of the big differences. Look, Democrats might well be just as middling, mincing, and incompetent as they seem, but, to the one, to the one, it’s nothing comparable to this, and, to the other, ritual equivocation would only obscure important considerations.

(more…)

Oklahoma Rising

The crowd gathered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Wednesday, 15 July 2015, hoping to glimpse President Obama as he arrived at his hotel, included protesters waving Confederate flags.  (Photo: Getty Images)

This is getting out of hand.

One way to tell the situation is out of hand is that Republican Congressmen Tom Cole (R-4) and Frank Lucas (R-3) are willing to make a stand:

Two Oklahoma Republican congressmen ripped protesters in their state who greeted President Obama in Oklahoma City by waving Confederate flags, calling their actions “disrespectful,” “embarrassing” and “inappropriate.”

“I was shocked and disappointed by those who showed up to wave Confederate flags soon after President Obama arrived in Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, a senior House Republican, said in a statement to The Hill. “Their actions were not only disappointing but incredibly disrespectful, insensitive and embarrassing to the entire state.

“The unacceptable behavior displayed by these individuals certainly does not reflect the values and views of the vast majority of Oklahomans,” Cole added. “No president should ever be confronted by such behavior, especially when the purpose of the visit was meant to celebrate and recognize some of our state’s greatest achievements.”

Rep. Frank Lucas, another Oklahoma Republican who is close to leadership, said in an interview: “Free speech is an amazing thing. Unfortunately this was an inappropriate use of it.”

Obama traveled to Oklahoma to visit a federal prison, part of his push to overhaul the criminal justice system. He also rolled out a new pilot program aimed at bringing high-speed internet to low-income households.

But when he arrived at his hotel in Oklahoma City Wednesday night, about 10 protesters in the crowd greeted him by waving the Confederate flag. Before Obama’s visit, protesters gathered along an interstate highway near Durant, Oklahoma, and flew the battle flag.

It is easy enough to suggest Messrs. Cole and Lucas have every reason to “move past the flag flap”, as Scott Wong explained for The Hill. After all, the Civil War ended in 1865; Oklahoma was not a state until 1907, nor even a Territory until 1890. Which in turn leads to the strange point that the Confederate flag actually flew over the Capitol grounds in Oklahoma city for over twenty years, until a 1988 renovation of the state house. And while that might make it harder for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) to blame Texas―

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who greeted Obama on the airport tarmac, attempted to distance the Sooner State from the flag-waving protesters. Her spokesman suggested many of them drove over the stateline from Texas.

―denouncing this particular demonstration is an easy call for Republicans, and has the added benefit of actually being the right thing to do.

Then again, blaming the protest in Oklahoma City on Texas? This is another sign that the situation is out of hand, and has the added benefit of actually being really, really funny.

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Image note: The crowd gathered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Wednesday, 15 July 2015, hoping to glimpse President Obama as he arrived at his hotel, included protesters waving Confederate flags. (Photo: Getty Images)

Wong, Scott. “Republicans criticize Confederate flags at Obama visit”. The Hill.