Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had a brutal winter, when a variety of transportation-related mishaps fell at his feet, inspiring questions about his competency and relevant experience to be running the nation’s transportation-related infrastructures.
But one of the benefits, it seems, of occupying a less visible political post (less visible than say president, senator, or within the top tier of the cabinet), is the ability to fade into the background, to weather the storm. The national press’s attention span for the plight of the Transportation Secretary was finite (just a few weeks’ worth) allowing Buttigieg to lay low and recuperate.
Pete Buttigieg isn’t going anywhere
Don’t kid yourself: Pete Buttigieg isn’t going anywhere. The guy is – even by the standards of Washington, D.C. – overtly ambitious. He’s young, he’s plugged in with the establishment, and he has designs on higher office. It would take a lot more than a train derailment in Ohio to… upend Buttigieg’s career.
It started with the Southwest fiasco. Thousands upon thousands of travelers were stranded during the peak holiday travel season when Southwest cancelled scores of their flights. The situation reflected poorly on the DOT, simply because it was a major blunder relating to travel. But when it became clear that Buttigieg was pressured to impose fines on airlines who cancelled flights, in an effort to curb the behavior (Southwest’s mass cancellations) that created the holiday fiasco, but decline – Buttigieg himself began the focus of intense criticism.
Attention on Buttigieg ratcheted up another level in February when a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in Ohio.
“The disaster, which came just months after a series of embarrassing air travel issues that snarled plans for millions of Americans, is prompting renewed scrutiny of [Buttigieg’s] tenure atop the department,” The Hill reported. The renewed scrutiny went as far as to call for Buttigieg’s impeachment.
“I hope [Buttigieg] does resign,” Warren Davidson, a Republican Congressman from Ohio, told Real America’s Voice. “I never would have thought we’d see a point where we need to impeach a Secretary of Transportation, but daggon, how many failures have to happen on his watch before we call it?”
Democrats rallied in defense of Buttigieg, saying that the reason he took so much heat had more to do with who he was, rather than his performance as Transportation Secretary. “Before, if you got your flight delayed, you weren’t like ‘oh that damn Elain Chao,” one Democratic operative told The Hill. “That’s the downside that comes with being such a good public figure.”
Yeah, fair enough. Buttigieg is a uniquely high-profile DOT chief. Maybe the most high-profile DOT chief ever – who many expect to one day run for office. But, like the number one seed who overlooks the wild card in preparation of bigger and better things, Buttigieg may be learning that you can’t overlook the steps along the way. Being a public figure can go sideways on you in a blink; and being appointed as head of the Department of Transportation comes with some built-in responsibilities to the American public.
Buttigieg seems to have been laying low, but he’ll be back. He’s probably going to be relevant for another four decades or so.
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.