It didn't take much for Sen. Jim Inhofe's office to get an official with the Environmental Protection Agency to quit. Al Armendariz (left), the EPA's regional chief in the South and Southwest, offered his resignation on Monday, less than a week after Inhofe (above) started attacking him for using the word "crucify" in a speech about regulation. The metaphor was an unfortunate choice on Armendariz's part, but his resignation seems like a very quick fold in the face of a short campaign that did not have more ammunition than a two-year-old speech that's since been scrubbed from YouTube.
"In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent Sunday, Al Armendariz says he regrets his words and stresses that they do not reflect his work as administrator of the five-state region including Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana," The Associated Press's Dina Cappiello reported on Monday. You can't see video of Armendariz's controversial, May 2010 speech, but the Dallas Observer transcribed the offending language:
The Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they'd find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.
And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is 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.
Inhofe, the Republican from Oklahoma, posted the speech on his own YouTube channel last Wednesday. By Friday, Armendariz had apologized, and the video's owner, Citizen Media for We The People (which Politico learned was "run by someone named David McFatridge," whose name appears in the YouTube error message) had taken it down. Citizen Media for We the People hosts videos with a pretty clearly pro-regulation, environmentalist message.
But the comments were out there, and conservative commentators were already seizing on them as examples of how the EPA was anti-industry. EPA clearly didn't want to stand by Armendariz for them. On Friday its administrator, Lisa Jackson, called Armendariz's comments "disappointing" and said the agency would "continue to review and talk to Dr. Armendariz." That made it clear EPA wasn't exactly standing by its guy. On Monday, Jackson said she was fine with his resignation. "I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency,” Jackson said in a statement, according to The New York Times' Green blog. “We are all grateful for Dr. Armendariz’s service to E.P.A. and to our nation.” Grateful he got out of the way, we think she means.