As if Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt weren't facing enough controversies, we learned this week that the Oklahoma Republican has spent quite a bit of taxpayer money on first-class air travel. Donald Trump's EPA chief responded by saying he'd "had some incidents" that made the expensive plane tickets necessary.
This was, however, an odd response. Why would "incidents" be more common in coach?
Yesterday, as the Washington Post reported, the EPA elaborated on the nature of Pruitt's travel habits.
Verbal confrontations with members of the public prompted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to switch to flying first or business class whenever possible, officials said Thursday.
Henry Barnet, who directs EPA's Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training, said in an interview that the head of Pruitt's security detail, Pasquale Perrotta, recommended in May that he fly in either first or business class to provide "a buffer" between him and the public.
It's generally not a good sign when public servants, traveling at taxpayers' expense, look to create "a buffer" between them and the Americans they ostensibly serve. (One wonders whether Pruitt might be better off if he also considered creating a buffer between his office and lobbyists for polluters.)
But even putting that aside, what kind of "confrontations" are we talking about here? According to Politico, at an airport in Atlanta, someone approached Pruitt with his cell phone recording, yelling at him, "Scott Pruitt, you're f---ing up the environment."
And while I'm sure that was unpleasant, Pruitt and his team still seem to be missing the underlying point. Putting aside whether the Trump's EPA chief is, in fact, "f---ing up the environment," what's to stop a first-class traveler from saying the same thing to Pruitt? Or someone in coach saying it to Pruitt on the way toward the back of the plane?
Is the idea that Pruitt, sensitive as he appears to be, needs us to pay for more expensive plane tickets because he's less likely to find angry people if he sits with those who can afford first-class tickets?