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Did Donald Trump Just Walk Into a Trap?

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

The Biden administration is salivating over Donald Trump’s visit to East Palestine, Ohio, where a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed.


Because Trump’s recent visit will provide the Biden administration with a great reason to blast Trump’s “record of rolling back regulations on both rail safety and hazardous chemicals.”

Specifically, what the Biden administration plans to emphasize is that the Trump administration “withdrew an Obama-era proposal to require faster brakes on trains carrying highly flammable materials, ended regular rail safety audits of railroads, and mothballed a pending rule requiring freight trains to have at least two crew members.” 

Obviously, the Ohio train derailment has become highly politicized. The shots that the Biden administration will be taking at Donald Trump are very much a reaction to the heat Biden’s Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, has been taking since the train derailed.

Republicans have been dragging Buttigieg over the coals ever since the train derailed, spewing its toxic cargo. In fighting back, Pete Buttigieg has deflected blame, citing the aforementioned Trump-era deregulations.

Now, the wider Biden administration looks to be going on the offensive against Trump, who frankly, is walking straight into a trap of sorts. Or is he? 

Donald Trump Has a Problem? 

“It’s clear that it’s a political stunt,” former Transportation Secretary (and Republican Congressman) Ray LaHood said of Trump’s visit to Ohio. “If he wants to visit, he’s a citizen. But clearly his regulations and the elimination of them, and no emphasis on safety, is going to be pointed out.”

Pete Buttigieg took a shot at Trump’s visit, too.

Impliedly, that is (The Hatch Act prohibits Buttigieg, cabinet member, from speaking about a presidential candidate). “There is a chance for everybody who has a public voice on this issue to demonstrate whether they are interested in helping the people of East Palestine or using the people of East Palestine,” Buttigieg said.

“A lot of the folks who seem to find political opportunity there are among those who have sided with the rail industry again and again and again as they have fought safety regulations on railroads and [hazardous materials] tooth and nail.”

While Trump’s visit provides an opportunity to emphasize missteps taken during the Trump administration, Trump’s visit also brings attention to the fact that Biden and Buttigieg have been in charge of the DOT for over two years – and that multiple weeks passed before any top Biden officials were dispatched to the Ohio derailment site.

“If our “leaders” are too afraid to actually lead real leaders will step up and fill the void,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter. Trump himself wrote on Truth Social that he was headed to Ohio to visit “great people who need help, NOW!” 

Partisan Analysis

Like everything else in 2023, who gets blamed for the Ohio train derailment will fall along partisan lines. Liberals have already decided they are going to blame Trump because, well, liberals blame Trump for everything. Conservatives are going to blame Biden and Buttigieg because that’s what conservatives do. It’s par for the course for Trump and Biden. But Buttigieg, is taking more heat than your average Transportation Secretary.

Will the criticisms currently being directed at Buttigieg have long-lasting implications? Will they disrupt Buttigieg’s political trajectory?

Legitimate questions are being raised over Buttigieg’s involvement in the train derailment and whether he had the opportunity to upgrade rail safety regulations during his two years running the DOT.

But like everything else, liberals will probably rally to the defense of Buttigieg, just because conservatives are criticizing him. The extent to which Buttigieg is to blame probably won’t matter politically. 

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.