Top of the Ticket Political commentary from David Horsey

Trump may be in trouble, but his appointees advance his startling agenda

Cable news is consumed with wall-to-wall coverage of every new development in Donald Trump’s political implosion, and liberals, still stunned by Trump’s rise to the White House, cannot get enough of it. For them, this national nightmare can’t be over soon enough.

Nevertheless, one disturbing reality should not be overlooked. While Trump does his best to paint himself into a corner from which he can’t escape, the work of his appointees goes on unhindered. The president may not be able to get any legislation through a Congress that sees him as increasingly radioactive, but the Cabinet secretaries who already got a congressional OK are turning some very regressive ideas into reality.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in environmental and land-use issues.

Following Trump’s directive, Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt is making it his mission to dismantle the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Although critics on the squirrelly Breitbart right insist he is not going far enough to erase each and every policy that accepts climate change as real, Pruitt is hardly slacking. He appears intent on neutering regulations designed to meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals the United States agreed to in the Paris climate agreement. If he gets his way, the U.S. will pull out of the Paris deal altogether.

Pruitt would love to shutter the very agency he runs. Before killing off the EPA, though, he is overseeing a long list of decisions that favor industry over the environment and public health. A prime example of this is the recent decision by the EPA to give a green light to use of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos. Apparently, it did not matter to Pruitt that the National Institutes of Health has found that chlorpyrifos can cause "adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.” He came down on the side of Dow Chemical and rest of the pesticide industry.

While Pruitt is attacking the environment from one side, Trump’s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, is riding in from the other side — quite literally. In recent days, he has been on horseback taking a look at recently designated national monuments in Utah. A proud son of Montana, Zinke insists he cares about protecting public lands and wants to listen to all sides, but according to the Salt Lake Tribune he gave conservationists and tribal groups just a couple of hours to talk with him while, over four days, pro-development folks traveled with him and guided his trail ride through the Bears Ears National Monument.

Trump has directed Zinke to review the status of more than two dozen national monuments created by his three most recent predecessors in the White House. It is entirely obvious that Trump has been listening attentively to lobbyists for the mining and fossil fuels industries. Those folks claim locking up beautiful scenery and sacred ground hurts job creation — job creation being their standard euphemism for corporate profits. Zinke seems to be listening to the same people, so do not be surprised if the monuments start losing protections very soon. Can the National Parks be far behind?

Pruitt and Zinke are not the only Cabinet officials who are busy undermining protections for average citizens. At the Department of Health and Human Service, Secretary Tom Price is touting the House Republican healthcare bill that would take away healthcare from millions of Americans, while over at the Department of Education, Secretary Betsy DeVoss is pushing huge cuts in funding for public education and making it even harder for certain students to pay off college loan debt.

The investigations into Trump’s campaign links with Russia and his murky financial dealings are putting the president in great political peril, but, no matter what eventually happens to him, the people carrying out the goals of his administration are forging ahead. They may not be in the news, but they should not escape our scrutiny.

david.horsey@latimes.com

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter

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