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Pete Buttigieg Made a Really Big Mistake

Pete Buttigieg. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Pete Buttigieg

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is visiting the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment site today. Simultaneously, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is releasing the preliminary results of their investigation into the derailment.   

“The initial NTSB investigation results found the train was traveling 47 miles per hour, slower than the 50 miles per hour speed limit,” CBS reported. “The train was alerted three times by an alarm that was triggered by a hot axle.”

Pete Buttigieg commented on the NTSB’s findings during a press conference, calling the initial findings an “important step” in the direction of making corrective policy to improve rail safety.

But with Pete Buttigieg, of course, the visit has a political angle.

Should Pete Buttigieg have gone to Ohio?

Any Cabinet member is going to have a political angle and is going to want to properly represent the administration that they are a part of. Especially Buttigieg, who nabbed the top spot with the Department of Transportation, not because he had any relevant experience, but because he had mounted a surprisingly successful bid for president during the 2020 election.

Buttigieg’s visit to Ohio now is very much politically motivated

“The resilience, the resolve, and the decency of this community as they have gone through this disaster’s immediate impact and the swirl of national and international and political attention that’s come their way – their decency and resolve been inspiring,” Buttigieg said.

Are the people of Ohio buying it?

Buttigieg pressured Congress and “any national political figure who has decided to get involved in the plight of East Palestine” (i.e., former President Trump), to work with the DOT to prevent similar accidents in the future. 

“We’re also holding ourselves to highest standards in terms of the work that we’re doing and the work we’re going to continue to do to both respond to this incident and to make sure that we make rail safer to everyone who is in a community that is close to rail lines and anybody who is involved in freight rail at all.” Well, that’s good.

Did Buttigieg wait too long to visit?

It took three weeks for Buttigieg to visit Ohio; the train derailment occurred on February 3rd.

The delay has been deeply criticized. Buttigieg addressed the criticisms from Ohio on Thursday. Pete Buttigieg expressed limited regrets – saying that he regretted not expressing concern for the affected community sooner.

“I felt strongly about this and could have expressed that sooner,” Buttigieg said. “I was taking pains to respect the role that I have and the role that I don’t have, and that should not have stopped me from weighing in about how I felt about what was happening to this community.”

Pete Buttigieg said the reason he did not visit Ohio sooner was because he wanted to give the NTSB and emergency workers the space they needed to do their jobs. 

“I have followed the normal practice of transportation secretaries in the early days after a crash, allowing NTSB to lead the safety work and staying out of their way,” Buttigieg said. “But I am very eager to have conversations with people in East Palestine about how this is impacted them.”

Frankly, I don’t know anything about the normal practices of transportation secretaries in the early days after a crash. But I know Buttigieg’s follows a political compass, not a transportation secretary in the early days after a crash compass.

Whatever kept Pete Buttigieg away for three weeks was likely more about optics than functionality. And that seems like a big mistake. 

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.