For the last three years, the EPA has ranked among the GOP's favorite boogeymen, sidling up right behind Obamacare as the big reason America is going to hell. The EPA is over-regulating! It's killing jobs! It's socialism incarnate! Head to the hills, lest the government protect you from the environment. It's scary stuff.
The only thing is, the GOP couldn't really ever find any hard evidence that the EPA was destroying freedom as we know it. Sure, they scared rural voters with the specter of imaginary farm dust regulations, but that didn't really play in the mainstream. Any evidence that EPA regulations actually killed any jobs at all was beyond thin. It seemed that GOP bosses and the Tea Party were having trouble convincing most conservative voters that regulations protecting air and water quality were a bad idea.
Then, thankfully for them, this happened. The Hill reports that Al Armendariz, the EPA official "under fire for comparing enforcement of environmental laws to crucifixion, has resigned."
If you haven't been following this story, here's the background:
Armendariz — who oversaw oil-and-gas-producing states including Texas and Louisiana — drew GOP attacks last week over 2010 comments in which he compared his enforcement strategy to the way ancient Roman conquerors would use terror to keep order ... The video, which Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) released last week, set off a firestorm at a time when Republicans are alleging that EPA’s approach is overzealous.Obviously, it was an unfortunate metaphor—especially considering it was made by a leading member of an agency that an entire political party, one that's galvanized by evangelical Christians, hotly derides. It's bad, bad politics, pure and simple; it's a soundbite on a platter for Republicans eager to spread the gospel about their monstrous (and mythical), business-killing EPA.
“I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement. And I think it was probably a little crude, and maybe not appropriate for the meeting, but I’m going to tell you what I said,” Armendariz says in the video. “It is kind of like how the Romans used to conquer the villages in the Mediterranean — they’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere and they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. Then that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”
Armendariz continued: “And so, you make examples out of people who are, in this case, not complying with the law. You find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them. There’s a deterrent effect there. And companies that are smart see that. They don’t want to play that game and they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up. And that won’t happen unless you have somebody out there making examples of people.”
But Armendariz was merely describing how he thinks the EPA should be aggressive in applying the rule of law to more egregious polluters—and perhaps making a show of it so that other companies clean up their operations preemptively. But the fiery language has played right into the GOP's yarns about the job-killing leviathan, and given them all the "proof" they need to continue their hyperactive attacks on—and perhaps even justify "investigations" into—the governmental body that works to protect Americans from air and water pollution.