Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivers a speech billed as "A Vision for American Energy Dominance" at the Heritage Foundation on September 29, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A new frontrunner in the ‘Trump’s Oddest Cabinet Member’ contest

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/11/17, 9:01 PM ET

Secretary Zinke having awesome time with taxpayer money

Rachel Maddow reports on the adventures and activities Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is having while engaging in political activities using taxpayer money.
Donald Trump has assembled quite a motley crew for his cabinet, and choosing its strangest member is challenging. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is clearly making a name for himself – and not necessarily in a good way.

As regular readers know, the Republican’s troubles have been steadily intensifying. It looked bad, for example, when Zinke gave a motivational speech to a Republican donor’s hockey team, before taking a $12,000 flight home. It didn’t help when we learned the private plane belongs to “the executives of a Wyoming oil-and-gas exploration firm.”

As Rachel noted last week, Zinke has also taken private jet flights to a GOP fundraiser and to the U.S. Virgin Islands – long before the islands faced any hurricane damage – where he enjoyed “an official snorkeling tour.” The story took another turn this week when we learned Zinke also charged taxpayers to fly him to a ski resort and to fly him to an awesome sounding steakhouse in Alaska.

Late yesterday, the Washington Post highlighted a brand new Zinke story, which has nothing to do with his controversial travel schedule, but which casts the cabinet secretary in a very odd light.

At the Interior Department’s headquarters in downtown Washington, Secretary Ryan Zinke has revived an arcane military ritual that no one can remember ever happening in the federal government.

A security staffer takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and hoists a special secretarial flag whenever Zinke enters the building. When the secretary goes home for the day or travels, the flag – a blue banner emblazoned with the agency’s bison seal flanked by seven white stars representing the Interior bureaus – comes down.

When a cabinet secretary and the Queen of England have a flag practice in common, that’s weird.

The cabinet secretary’s press secretary told the Post in an email, “Ryan Zinke is proud and honored to lead the Department of the Interior, and is restoring honor and tradition to the department, whether it’s flying the flag when he is in garrison or restoring traditional access to public lands.”

That might be a more compelling response if Zinke weren’t a civilian and if the Department of the Interior were a military instillation.

For his part, the Interior secretary recently said about a third of the Americans who work in his department are “not loyal to the flag.” I’m going to hope he was referring to the flag that represents Zinke personally, not the nation’s flag.

A new frontrunner in the 'Trump's Oddest Cabinet Member' contest

Updated