A woman confronted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt yesterday while Pruitt was having a meal in a restaurant.
Kristin Mink teaches school in Washington, D.C., and said she had a “civil” discussion with Pruitt about EPA policies, which she says hurts her children.
“We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, someone who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all us, including our children,” Mink said, “I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out.”
OK. Maybe it’s just me, but I happen to shrink from this kind of confrontation of public officials in that context. Do I detest the policies that Pruitt is enacting at EPA? Yes. Do I also detest the policies coming from the Oval Office? Again, yes.
This whole issue has come to the fore in recent days ever since White House press flack Sarah Hucakabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant. Then came U.S. Rep. Maxine Water, D-Calif., who has declared that it’s OK to harass Trump administration officials even when they’re on their own time with their own families.
Whoa! Again, I disagree.
Kristin Mink makes a valid point, which is that Pruitt and, indeed, Donald J. Trump all work for us. They are our employees. They owe it to us to be accountable for their actions and we have every right to confront them whenever we damn well feel like it, or so the belief goes.
I just don’t like the idea of confronting these individuals in that manner. I certainly understand that they work for me — and you! There happen to be plenty of ways to hold them accountable. I try to do that with this blog, for instance. You can write them. You can call their staffs and bitch at them.
Or … you can vote for officials who will select people to administer public policy more to your preference.
I’ve confronted a (former) public official only once in my life. It was early 1996. I was walking along a street in Washington, D.C., when I encountered former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who had just published a memoir in which he acknowledged that he knew as early as 1962 that the Vietnam War was a lost cause.
Well, I was one of the millions of young men who served for a time in that war. So … I told McNamara how angry I was to learn that my country sent me into harm’s way to participate in a war the former defense boss believed could not be won.
He thanked me for my comments. I thanked him for coming clean — finally! — and we parted ways. It was just him and me. McNamara is now deceased, so I’m the only party who can speak to what occurred that day in Washington.
I didn’t consider it in the moment to be a form of “harassment.” I do consider it harassment when you berate a public official who’s seeking to enjoy some private time.
At least they understand, however, that they work for us.