A couple of years ago, Scott Pruitt had some unkind words for Donald Trump. The Oklahoma Republican appeared on a radio show at the time and argued, among other things, that if Trump were elected president, he’d be “abusive” toward the Constitution.
Evidently, my assumption about Pruitt always being wrong was mistaken.
Trump, of course, went on to win anyway, and he tapped Pruitt to lead the EPA. Confronted with his 2016 quote this week, Pruitt initially said he didn’t recall making the comments – it was an untenable posture given the recording of the interview – before rejecting his previous assessment in a rather striking way.
“After meeting him, and now having the honor of working for him, it is abundantly clear that President Trump is the most consequential leader of our time,” Pruitt explained. “No one has done more to advance the rule of law than President Trump. The president has liberated our country from the political class and given America back to the people.”
Pruitt could’ve just explained that his 2016 comments were made in the middle of a contentious primary season, when rhetoric was running hot, but in Trump World, that wouldn’t suffice. He had to reject his previous assessment by praising Trump in a Dear Leader sort of way.
The story came a week after Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley appeared on “Fox & Friends” and described Trump as “a real-life Superman.”
New York’s Olivia Nuzzi, meanwhile, was interested in learning more about the president’s speechwriting team ahead of Trump’s State of the Union address. She received an interesting response from the White House:
“Unfortunately we will not be able to facilitate an interview with the speechwriting team,” Lindsay Walters, a deputy press secretary, told me in an email. “On record,” she added, “when President Trump communicates with the American people, his words are his own and come directly from his heart. His unparalleled ability to speak to and connect with people from across the country, including those who have felt forgotten by Washington for many years, will never waver.”
You know, there was a time in which the political world teased Barack Obama’s aides for speaking highly of him. Those days seem quaint now.
I’m mindful of the circumstances, of course. Perhaps Scott Pruitt felt he had to gush over Trump because he feared getting fired. Maybe Hogan Gidley described Trump as “a real-life Superman” because he assumed his boss was watching.
Perhaps Lindsay Walters used a creepy description of the president’s rhetorical abilities because, well, I’m not altogether sure why.
The point is, it’s one thing for people in the president’s orbit to offer their support; it’s something else to see adults go this far. If the goal is to help persuade the public about Trump’s perceived greatness, the over-the-top praise almost certainly has the opposite effect.