By Michael Brune April 10, 2019
Does Donald Trump care that his nominee for Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, is an ethically compromised lobbyist* who’s been festering within the department for years like the chestburster from Alien? We’re talking about a president who lies compulsively, treats the government like a get-rich-quick scheme, and has inspired a 257-page book about his epic cheating at golf.
Of course he doesn’t care. The real issue is whether your U.S. senators care, because they’ll soon be voting on Bernhardt’s confirmation, even as fresh scandals erupt around the man who’s been called a walking, talking conflict of interest.
Bernhardt famously used to carry around a laminated card that listed all of the former lobbying clients he briefly recused himself from interacting with (apparently, it wasn’t effective). What every senator needs right now is a card that lists every one of Bernhardt’s scandalous and outrageous actions since he hopped on the Trump train in 2016.
Alas, that list wouldn’t fit in anyone’s pocket. According to Outside Magazine (which performed a similar service for the now-disgraced Ryan Zinke) we’re now up to 17 reasons why this man isn’t qualified to serve as dog-catcher, much less lead the department responsible for our public lands, national parks, endangered wildlife, and relations with Native Tribes.
The notion that Trump ever seriously wanted to “drain the swamp” is laughable, but the prospect of someone as swampy as Bernhardt leading the Interior Department is anything but. The damage this man has already done, both as Zinke’s smarter, savvier consigliere, and since Zinke’s resignation as the acting despoiler in chief, is extraordinary. During the government shutdown alone, Bernhardt managed to rush through the drilling review for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, expedite offshore drilling permits, and grossly mismanage our national parks (resulting in permanent damage). He’s actively undermining the Endangered Species Act, regularly overruling scientists (so we can all have more toxic pesticides on our fruits and vegetables), and bending over backwards for former clients in the oil and gas industry at every turn.
Even for Trump, Bernhardt represents a real low. I’m not so naïve as to think that the Trump administration’s Interior Department will ever be led by someone endorsed by the Sierra Club, but that doesn’t mean we should accept the worst nominee imaginable. The biggest scandal of all might be that any U.S. senator would consider voting to confirm him.
* (OK, technically, he’s an ex-lobbyist, but let’s be real with each other.)