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Press Talk: My buddies, Trump and Benton

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: February 11, 2017, 6:10am

Oh, the delicious irony.

Three years ago — almost to the day — my wife and I stayed at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. And whenever I travel, I always take along my trusted Don’t Do Stupid Stuff mug. I do it — in part — because if I see other mugs being sold in a gift store, I sneak the DDSS mug in among the store’s mugs as a photo gag. Then I take my mug back. You can see the end result in the attached photo: My Don’t Do Stupid Stuff mug alongside Trump mugs.

No one knew back then Donald Trump was even considering running for president. Or how much he could have used one of my DDSS mugs.

Trump’s need for my mug became crystal clear this week when we learned former Washington state Sen. Don Benton would be staying on at the Environmental Protection Agency as its senior White House adviser.

Oh, my!

Remember, Benton was hired as our county’s environmental services director even though he couldn’t tell the difference between wastewater and whipped cream.

Give Trump time?

Look, I was an early adopter of the concept that Trump won the election and we need to let this thing play out. And — who knows — it still could play out well.

But stuff like hiring Benton to advise the White House on anything about the environment is sort of like hiring a wolf to oversee your herd of cattle.

It’s guaranteed to not turn out well.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, good can come from this.

The Benton defense

There are a few folks around these parts who still defend Benton’s achievements as the county’s environmental services director. And they often point to County Manager Mark McCauley’s favorable performance evaluations of Benton.

But think about two things for a second:

  • Benton was not hired by McCauley. Benton was sneaked in through the back door by then-Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke. It was cronyism at its finest.

And guess who was McCauley’s boss? That’s right.  Those mischievous M&M boys. Now put yourself in McCauley’s shoes having to evaluate Benton. I think you get it now.

  • Have you ever heard the maxim “Sometimes organizations run well not because of the manager but in spite of the manager?”

From everything I know, the county’s Department of Environmental Services was running well because there were very good people in the department. Not because of Benton.

Still a logical choice?

Unfortunately, Trump’s choosing Benton makes sense in a twisted, weird sort of way.

  • Neither of these Donalds is a big believer in the environment. If there’s a battle between stuff like clean water and big business, clean water doesn’t stand a chance.
  • Even though Benton has been feeding at the public trough most of his life, he’s still considered a government-hater. So Trump appreciates a guy he believes will be able to neuter or even dismantle the EPA.
  • Benton is the classic suck-up. He would never push back on anything Trump wants. And that’s just the way Trump wants it.

In retrospect, I should have left my DDSS mug at the Trump Hotel in Vegas. Maybe Trump would have picked it up and realized the meaning of those words, and his first weeks as president would have been much better.


Party with me!

Hey, next Saturday, The Columbian is throwing a party so I can say thank you to the community for all you’ve meant to me. I’m stepping down as editor. Please come join us from 1 to 3 p.m. in the newsroom at The Columbian, 701 W. Eighth Street, Vancouver.

Columbian Editor