Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has come under intense fire from Republicans in recent days following his odd and slow response to a massive train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, as well as two years of strange or otherwise inefficient responses to various crises.
“For two years, Secretary Buttigieg downplayed and ignored crisis after crisis, while prioritizing topics of little relevance to our nation’s transportation system,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden requesting Buttigieg’s removal. “It is painfully clear to the American people that Secretary Buttigieg has little regard for the duties of the Secretary of Transportation.”
Republicans in the House and Senate have leaped on both Biden and Buttigieg for the White House’s handling of the Ohio catastrophe, which included a slow mobilization of FEMA by Biden and a tone-deaf tweet thread by Buttigieg.
Biden has, after being pressured by Republicans and Democrats, ramped up FEMA’s presence in Ohio, which has at least bought the president some breathing room, but Buttigieg might not be able to fix his issues quite as easily.
Conservatives might have few good words to say about Biden, but they are positively locked in on seeing Buttigieg forced out of his position.
On Valentine’s Day, Buttigieg posted a lengthy thread on Twitter in which he seemed to miss the point as to why people had taken such an interest in train derailments and the Department of Transportation’s work to improve rail safety standards.
Rather than address the failure that occurred in Ohio, Buttigieg instead spoke at length about efforts the administration was making to prevent other tragedies. This was 10 days after the East Palestine derailment.
“In the wake of the East Palestine derailment and its impact on hundreds of residents, we’re seeing lots of newfound or renewed (and welcome) interest in our work on rail safety, so I wanted to share more about what we’ve been doing in this area,” Buttigieg tweeted. “We are making historic investments on rail safety through funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, work that accelerates this year and continue in the years to come.”
We are making historic investments on rail safety through funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, work that accelerates this year and continue in the years to come.
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 14, 2023
Buttigieg did not offer any explanation as to how these plans would have any impact on the current crisis, but blamed former President Donald Trump for having created policies Buttigieg feels “constrained” the DOT from more actively buttressing the nation’s railways.
FOCUSED ON RACE WHILE IGNORING CATASTROPHE
Oddly, while Buttigieg took more than a week to address the Ohio crisis, such that he addressed it, he did find time in the week that followed the disaster to state that the nation has a white supremacy problem in the area of construction.
“We have heard way too many stories from generations past of infrastructure where you got a neighborhood, often a neighborhood of color, that finally sees the project come to them, but everyone in the hard hats on that project, doing the good paying jobs, don’t look like they came from anywhere near the neighborhood,” Buttigieg said at the conference.
The remarks drew a harsh rebuke from Ohio Republican Sen. JD Vance, who said during an appearance on Fox, “I’ve got to say: the Secretary of Transportation not talking about this issue … talking about how we have too many white-male construction workers instead of the fact that our trains are crashing at alarming rates. The guy needs to do his job.”
"I've got to say: the Secretary of Transportation not talking about this issue…talking about how we have too many white-male construction workers instead of the fact that our trains are crashing at alarming rates. The guy needs to do his job." – Senator @JDVance1 pic.twitter.com/WzTizjk0Hh
— William Martin (@wsmartin218) February 15, 2023
Buttigieg also managed to somehow outpace even the aforementioned flubs when, during an appearance on Yahoo!, he stated that there are more than 1,000 derailments per year in the United States.
It was Buttigieg’s clear intention to use the remark to rally more support around the idea of improving rail safety, but it was taken (particularly by Republicans) as a tacit admission from the Transportation Secretary that he hasn’t accomplished much in that area since assuming office.
“Oh I feel much better now,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted in response.
Oh I feel much better now https://t.co/XNs6VPu7QP
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) February 16, 2023
UNQUALIFIED AND INEFFECTIVE
Although the East Palestine saga has brought Buttigieg front and center for Republican scrutiny, he has previously vexed or perplexed conservatives.
Buttigieg, formerly mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and possessing relatively scant experience that would lend to his overseeing the nation’s transportation infrastructure, was never a natural choice for his position. His time in office has been replete with head-scratching moments.
When the nation faced the worst months of its supply-chain crisis, Buttigieg stayed on paternity leave to spend time with his husband and their newly adopted child.
He also raised numerous collective eyebrows last Thanksgiving when his response to a glut of airport delays and flight cancellations was to promise but not actually take meaningful, tangible action.
“Pete Buttigieg is more focused on identity politics than the core responsibilities of his job,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted. “He was never qualified for this role.”