Donald Trump is good at many things, but his greatest gift may be his ability to distract the newshounds by shouting “Squirrel!” and sending them sniffing for a new story. But this week, the dogs wouldn’t stop gnawing on the president’s leg, no matter what he said.
His Cabinet secretaries might be grateful. The crying-babies, kids-in-cages news coverage about the U.S.-Mexican border pushed a Forbes story about Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ foreign investments to the inside pages. And as for every reporter’s favorite Trump administration pinata, the border story has been as great for Scott Pruitt as it has been horrible for Donald Trump.
A couple of months ago, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator was Washington’s hottest copy, with the press corps lighting him up again and again for his profligate, unethical and dodgy ways. Reporters busted him for everything from dispatching aides to run personal errands to giving political aides huge backdoor raises to renting (at a steep discount) a condo from a lobbyist’s wife.
As Pruitt’s rap sheet expanded and the news momentum gathered, he looked like a goner. Calls for him to resign came from the usual liberal voices in the environmental protection-industrial complex as well as from unexpected places, including slews of Capitol Hill Republicans, the Weekly Standard, National Review and even a minor Fox News host. As Pruitt twisted in the wind and the media morticians measured him for interment, he was saved twice by other news storms that displaced him as Topic A: The April Bill Cosby verdict and then the on-again, off-again North Korea talks, both of which clogged the headlines like bacon fat poured down the drain.
Then the border crisis shifted the press’ gaze once more, turning Pruitt into a three-peat winner. But perhaps for the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency, thanks to contradictory policy moves not even his supporters could understand, the president came out the loser.