The late Winston Churchill famously suggested never let a crisis go to waste, a tactic embraced by many politicians in recent years to push their agenda or cause. Department of Transportation (DoT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg attempted such a move but it has backfired spectacularly.
Pete Buttigieg Has No Shame in His PR Game: That’s a Mistake
On Tuesday evening, Pete Buttigieg attempted to tout efforts by the DoT to improve rail safety while also deflecting blame for the ongoing disaster in eastern Ohio via a series of tweets.
“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 wrote, adding, “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.”
He went on to note that in June the DoT approved $120 million in grants to improve railway safety, which likely came as little comfort to residents who live near East Palestine following a train derailment that occurred on February 3. The accident involved about 50 cars of a Norfolk Southern train, which went off the tracks, causing a days-long fire in the area.
According to NPR, ten of the cars contained hazardous chemicals including butyl acrylate and vinyl chloride – among other combustible liquids.
Authorities had feared the spill could set off major explosions, and as a result on Monday, February 5, crews conducted a “controlled release” of the hazardous chemicals resulting in a large plume of smoke.
The Place You Don’t Want to Be
The community of approximately 5,000 residents is located on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border – and according to its website is “The Place You Want to Be” but perhaps not right now.
Some business owners and residents have already filed lawsuits against Norfolk Southern, alleging that the company was negligent.
There are reports that the excess size had caused the train to break down days before it derailed.
Residents have questioned whether it is safe to return home, as officials had said the air and water were safe – only to later suggest that bottled water should be consumed.
Residents have also reported continuing to smell noxious odors in the area while many have said they felt sick. Environment experts have suggested better monitoring of the air and water is still required.
Too Little, Too Late and Blame Donald Trump?
Buttigieg’s response via social media was seen as too little and far too late. Moreover, some took aim that he passed the blame on the former administration.
“We’re constrained by law on some areas of retail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump Administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using powers we do have to keep people safe,” Pete Buttigieg suggested.
His response was called out by many on social media and comes less than two months after the holiday travel snafu that left millions stranded at Christmas, followed by a January 11 system outage that resulted in the first grounding of aircraft since 9/11.
Though these incidents were mostly beyond Buttigieg’s control, his handling has put into question whether he is qualified to serve as the head of the DoT.
It may also ensure that if he has aspirations to seek higher office, those are all but permanently grounded.
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Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.