WASHINGTON — Do you remember when we called those utterly frivolous though dreadfully ominous news stories of yesteryear Black Cat News Stories? They filled the media in the 1980s during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Not a week passed when a Reaganite was not being hounded by reporters for committing some minor misdeed, or often no misdeed at all, for instance forgetting to wash one's hands after lunch or neglecting to hold the door for a lady. That was back in the days when it was permissible to call a lady a lady and her gender was a matter of fact, not of litigation.
As I recall, Michael Kinsley, the comic genius of that faraway time, once accused Attorney General Ed Meese of jaywalking despite Meese's vaunted support for law and order, and even the death penalty. I do not recall if Kinsley was calling for the attorney general to step down from the Justice Department, but I do remember him being very disturbed and maybe even calling for a congressional inquiry. Then there was his indignation over the Reaganites' misuse of government frequent-flyer mileage. He persuaded a lot of Reagan's critics that this was a symptom of far-reaching corruption.
Well, now we have the closest approximation to President Reagan in the White House. That would be President Donald Trump. And the Black Cat News Story has returned. His latest presidential appointee to suffer its ensnarement is Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. He has not been accused of jaywalking or riding his bicycle the wrong way down a one-way street, but he did accept tickets to football games. He paid for them, but critics — that is to say, environmentalists, and possibly vegetarians — have claimed he did not pay enough for them. Also, he might have had a secretary pick them up.
There is more. He had staffers buy something or other from a gourmet food shop with the suggestive name of Dean & DeLuca. He rented a $50-a-night apartment in Washington from the wife of a lobbyist, who supposedly has business pending before the EPA. Of course, how many others have business pending before this out-of-control bureaucracy? This is one of President Trump's complaints. Then there was something about his charging the EPA for a dozen fountain pens that cost $130 each. Also, he insisted his security detail use its emergency sirens when he was late for dinner, and — I like this — he had a staff member call the Trump International Hotel and inquire if the hotel had any used mattresses lying around. All of this the Washington Post has called examples of "surprising pettiness." I for one would agree with the Post's assessment. So why is the newspaper dwelling on these petty expenditures? Is it trying to rile up Michael Kinsley?
Can you imagine an editor putting a team of crack investigative reporters on the scandal of the $130 pens or the sirens or the question of mattress purchases at Trump International Hotel? How used were those used mattresses? Who used them? Anyone famous? Surely someone at the Post had to be snickering. Or someone at The New York Times, for it, too, has been in a snit about Pruitt's expenditures of late.
Actually, Pruitt's work at the EPA is serious business. It is of a piece with President Trump's liberation of the economy and our present historic economic expansion. While campaigning, candidate Trump was promising his expectant audiences to rescind three government regulations for every new regulation the EPA would pass. Under Pruitt, whose views accord with the president's, the figure has been 22 older regulations dropped for every new regulation the EPA has adopted! The Trump economic boom owes as much to Pruitt's work on deregulation as it does to tax reform. He is the president's guy at the EPA, which explains why he is under fire. He is essential to draining the swamp, and without his help it is going to continue to be a drag on the economy.
This is why it is so difficult to understand why Republicans such as the otherwise-sound Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and commentators such as Fox News' Laura Ingraham are down on Pruitt. The left and the mainstream media are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him, and the kitchen sink has probably been overlooked because the plumbers are unionized. It is time for Republicans and independents to stand by the president and his head of the EPA. I say drain the swamp and enjoy the spectacle of more Black Cat News Stories. What will the media think of next? Was there something about his parking space at the EPA?
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author, most recently, of "The Death of Liberalism," published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.