Pete Buttigieg, the former Mayor of South Bend, former Democratic presidential candidate, and current Secretary of Transportation, may still have hopes of taking the top job one day – but a series of crises during his time in the Biden administration isn’t helping his prospects of succeeding one day.
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After a rocky two years attempting to oversee the country’s transportation systems, logistics, and supply chains, Buttigieg is now facing criticism over a series of major air traffic control problems.
Delta Pilot Blames Pete Buttigieg for Widespread Air Traffic Control Problems
After flights across Florida were stuck on the tarmac on Monday because of a widespread air traffic control problem, one Delta Air Lines pilot blamed the transport secretary for the problem.
Reports this week revealed how a Twitter user by the name of Stewart Lucas tweeted that the pilot of flight 2274 ATL-RSW commented over the loudspeaker to passengers that the plethora of problems at the airport and across the state was the fault of the transport secretary.
“@Delta it is not okay for the pilot of flight 2274 ATL-RSW to blame a Florida ground stop on @PeteButtigieg,” a tweet from the disgruntled passenger reads. “Completely unacceptable political dig just made twice at gate over loud speaker.”
A Delta worker responded to the tweet promising to “look into” the allegation.
The anger and frustration of the pilot, however, is likely shared by many other professionals in the airline industry following weeks of problems for U.S. air passengers.
Flight delays and cancellations across the country in the run-up to Christmas caused major problems for passengers.
By the end of December, Southwest Airlines alone was forced to cancel more than 15,000 flights because of a mixture of weather-related problems, staffing issues, and scheduling mistakes.
Buttigieg, however, insisted that the problems were not his fault. Speaking to ABC’s Good Morning in late December, the transport secretary said that the airline was “past the point” of blaming their problems on the weather.
“They need to make sure that these stranded passengers get to where they need to go and that they are provided adequate compensation, not just for the flights itself … but also things like hotels, like ground transportation, like meals because this is the airlines’ responsibility,” Buttigieg told Good Morning.
Is Pete Buttigieg To Blame?
Few can agree on who is to blame for the problems experienced by many of the United States’ top airlines.
Southwest bore the brunt of the problems, with flight tracking website Flight Aware revealing in late December how the airline accounted for more than 90% of flight cancellations on a single day.
On a day that Southwest canceled 2,500 flights, the airline with the next highest number of cancellations was SkyWest. Many of the airlines’ problems were caused by a sudden winter storm and heavy snowfall across the country, but some legislators believe that Buttigieg isn’t doing enough to hold airlines to account for the problems.
Republican South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace told Sean Hannity on Fox News that Buttigieg should put more pressure on Southwest and audit the company to see how billions of dollars in government relief was spent by the company. If the government is paying to help the company continue operating, she argued, then the American people should see how the money is being spent.
“This hit close to home, because my kids, my teenage kids, got stranded in Baltimore trying to make it home on Christmas Eve. And even today, five days later, we still don’t know where their luggage is right now,” Mace told Hannity. “And so we’ve been personally impacted by this.”
It’s not just Republicans and pilots who think Buttigieg has a role to play in these problems, either. Nina Turner, formerly the national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, said that Buttigieg’s ambitions to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination one day could be getting in the way of his ability to perform his role in government properly.
“What’s happening with the railroads, airlines & the supply chain is a result of a small city mayor being made the Secretary of Transportation as a means to pad his resume for President,” Turner said on Twitter. “Secretary Buttigieg is a prime example of failing up.”
Can He Survive the Scandals?
If Pete Buttigieg wants to become president, it would probably be wise to prove that he can be effective in government.
So far, Buttigieg has overseen the worst supply chain crisis in modern American history and failed to effectively navigate an airline industry crisis over one of the busiest periods in the year.
Worse, Buttigieg caused controversy when he chose to take weeks off work for paternity leave as store shelves went empty and cargo ships were stuck in U.S. ports.
The transport secretary even caused controversy when he vacationed in Portugal during key negotiations with railroad workers in 2022.
Buttigieg remains in his position, however, seemingly with the support of a president who appears to be planning to run again in 2024. President Joe Biden, having already lost one LGBTQ Department of Energy official who was charged with theft, may be more committed to having a diverse cabinet than an effective one.
With that in mind, Buttigieg may be able to count on the Democrats to back him regardless of how good he is at his job – whether that’s the Joe Biden White House or the party more generally if he runs for the party nomination again in the future.
While he may be able to count on the loyalty party, however, there’s no telling how the American people will respond to a presidential candidate who oversaw crisis after crisis during his stint in government.
Unless the Republicans put forward a wildly unpopular candidate, Pete Buttigieg could face real difficulty generating the support he needs to fulfill his dream of becoming president one day.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.