NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Individual Number One forces out Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior

Good riddance:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a key figure in [Donald] Trump’s sweeping plan to reshape the nation’s environmental framework, will leave his post at the end of the year, Mr. Trump said on Saturday.

Mr. Zinke’s departure comes amid numerous ethics investigations into his business dealings, travel and policy decisions.

Like Scott Pruitt, Zinke is so corrupt that his behavior while in office caused fifteen investigations into his conduct to be opened. Few in Trump’s cabinet aside from Betsy DeVos have generated the kind of antipathy that Zinke did.

Of course, we can’t expect Zinke’s successor to pursue better policies.

Rather than an end to Mr. Zinke’s pro-fossil fuel policies, the resignation quite likely signals a passing of the playbook.

Mr. Zinke’s deputy, David Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, is expected to step in as acting head of the department.

Bernhardt will continue to do Trump’s bidding while making the news less often.

The likely replacement by Mr. Bernhardt of his former boss in an acting capacity echoes events that followed the resignation of Mr. Pruitt at the [Environmental Protection Agency].

Mr. Pruitt, once a favorite of Mr. Trump’s for many of the same reasons as Mr. Zinke, was replaced in an acting capacity by his deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist with a low profile and a deep knowledge of the agency he ran and the regulations he sought to undo.

While Mr. Zinke spent his tenure as the face of many of the Trump administration’s efforts, many on the inside saw Mr. Bernhardt as the effective manager who was able to push policies through.

Mr. Bernhardt, with years of experience in the George W. Bush administration, and as a former lawyer and lobbyist for some of the nation’s largest oil companies, brings a deep insider’s knowledge to his job that Mr. Zinke lacked. His former legal clients included the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Halliburton.

Trump’s 2016 electoral college victory resulted in some really terrible, immoral people being put in charge of this country’s public agencies.

Instead of serving the public like they’re supposed to, they’ve turned our government into a weapon to use against us.

From their perches at Interior, Zinke and Bernhardt have been dismantling environmental protections, illegally shrinking National Monuments, and opening more land to oil and gas drilling. They’ve caused a lot of damage in a very short amount of time. And although Zinke is now leaving with his tail between his legs, he’s leaving Bernhardt behind to continue wreaking havoc.

Zinke, Pruitt, DeVos, and their ilk are certainly bad… but so are their deputies. We can’t expect things to get better just because one of the bad faces of Trump’s regime has been pushed out by the impatient Narcissist-in-Chief. The bad policies will continue, just under the auspices of someone who’s not as nakedly corrupt.

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