About a month ago, the Associated Press reported that the Environmental Protection Agency had an important new boast: the number of Superfund sites had shrunk thanks to completed cleanup efforts. It was, officials claimed, a major Trump administration accomplishment.
Except it wasn’t, really. The cleanup work on the Superfund sites in question was completed during the Obama administration. Trump World just wanted to take credit. (In fact, the AP found that work on Superfund sites slowed in 2017 to a level lower than any year of the Obama or Bush eras.)
Last week, as the New York Times reported, something similar happened.
The Trump administration has released data showing a large increase in penalties against polluters, as well $20 billion in commitments from companies to correct problems that have caused environmental damage. […]
The data from the E.P.A. represented activity during the government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, meaning the totals included the final three and half months of the Obama administration, when some of the E.P.A.’s biggest cases were settled. The data also reflected cases that were resolved during the Trump administration but had been initiated and largely handled under President Obama.
Cynthia Giles, who was the assistant administrator for the agency’s enforcement office during the Obama administration, explained to the Times, “Nearly all of the large cases included in E.P.A.’s annual enforcement report were essentially over before the new administration arrived at E.P.A. Without an unprecedented disavowal of an already negotiated and public agreement, there is nothing Administrator [Scott] Pruitt’s team could have done to change the outcome. In no sense do these cases reflect the intentions or actions of the new administration.”
In fact, not only did the Trump administration take credit for work it had nothing to do with, but the New York Times conducted an analysis and found that Trump’s EPA sought significantly fewer civil penalties against alleged polluters than the preceding two administrations.
It’s not just the EPA, either. Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department published a “comprehensive list of accomplishments” in December, which included the Trump administration taking credit for a legal victory over mining near the Grand Canyon – “a legal fight that had already been argued in federal court a month before the Trump administration took office.”
We can keep going down the same road. The White House, probably embarrassed that Trump’s first-year job totals were the worst in seven years, has also begun taking credit for job creation that occurred in the months leading up to this president’s inauguration.
Worse, this has been going on for a while. In early December, the Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted that Trump likes to take credit for all sorts of things that happened “before his presidency.”
I suppose the broader question is, if Barack Obama’s tenure were as awful as Trump claims, why does the Republican president keep trying to take ownership of the Democratic president’s successes and accomplishments?