Pete’s problems: Already dogged by complaints of absenteeism, lethargy and incompetence, Buttigieg now faces House probe

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the one taken of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg standing in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this week must have contained the phrase “Fire this man” written 333 times with space for one last “fire.” 

Friday, the House Oversight Committee announced it was investigating Buttigieg for taking more than a week to even acknowledge that a catastrophic derailment had occurred in East Palestine as well as numerous other alleged shortcomings during his two years atop Transportation.

“Despite the U.S. Department of Transportation’s responsibility to ensure safe and reliable transport in the United States, you ignored the catastrophe for over a week,” a letter from the committee to Buttigieg reads. “The American people deserve answers as to what caused the derailment, and DOT needs to provide an explanation for its leadership’s apathy in the face of this emergency.”

Buttigieg did not visit East Palestine until last week, 20 days after the original derailment. It was a visit that only proved to stoke calls for his job. 

Numerous conservative politicians and commentators have lampooned Buttigieg for appearing lost and out-of-place in his hard hat, orange vest, and formal footwear, but far more have taken what the transportation secretary said while on his visit to Ohio as the last straw. 

“Just another white, male construction worker,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted. The remark was in reference to Buttigieg’s choice of clothing in East Palestine and his decision to give a speech about what he views as a lack of people of color working in construction jobs well before he acknowledged the derailment. 

Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) shared a similar sentiment in an appearance on Fox News’ “Ingraham Angle.”

“All we’ve heard from [Buttigieg] is that infrastructure is ‘racist’ and there are too many White people that are going to be working in these construction jobs,” Comer said. “This isn’t the type of leadership I think the American people expect from the Secretary of Transportation.”

In the wake of Buttigieg’s weekslong delay in getting dress boots on the ground, GOP lawmakers have been relentless in their efforts to swing public sentiment so much against Buttigieg that it forces his resignation or termination. 

This weekend has marked a high point in those calls.

Republican anger has long been brewing against Buttigieg after he took an extended paternity leave to be with his husband and adopted child, refused to cut short that leave to help address a supply-chain crisis, seemed to have no plan for dealing with flight woes late last year, and has at times come across as tone deaf and indifferent to the crisis in East Palestine. 

The secretary’s choice to assign blame for the rail disaster to former President Donald Trump seems to have been the tipping point. Following Buttigieg’s blame-shifting efforts, Republicans have gone all in on forcing Buttigieg to shoulder a large chuck of responsibility. 

“We’re not letting @SecretaryPete off the hook,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) tweeted. “He has blamed others for infrastructure that is well within DOT’s ambit of responsibilities. He owes our committee, residents of East Palestine, and the rest of America immediate answers.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was a bit more colloquial in his remarks.

“What in the h*** does Pete Buttigieg have to do to get fired?” asked Cruz on his “Verdict” podcast. “Like, in the history of this country, has there ever been a transportation secretary who has screwed more things up? From in his first year in office, a supply chain crisis that impacted the entire country that made it hard to get basics and essentials?”

Democrats have shown no desire to join Republicans in their criticism of Buttigieg. The left’s tactic has been to attempt to force all attention on Norfolk Southern, the company whose train derailed. 

However, the lack of a resounding defense of Buttigieg is itself telling. Democrats either feel there is no need to defend Buttigieg – and this is possible given Republicans lack the votes to remove him from office – or realize being too staunch in defense of Buttigieg could be damaging. 

In either case, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is left to mostly stand on his own.