Buttigieg Finally Makes It to East Palestine, but It Does Not Go Well

Pete Buttigieg visits site of train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. (Credit: CNN)

On Thursday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg finally made it to East Palestine, Ohio — almost three weeks since the train derailment there on February 3 that resulted in chemical contamination of the area. That was only after a huge public backlash to the lack of response by Buttigieg and the Biden team, and former President Donald Trump going to the site. Except for a tweet, Joe Biden hasn’t made any public statement on the disaster. Indeed, he went to Ukraine to give them millions instead and said Ukraine had captured his heart.


Trump came with water and supplies on Wednesday. He bought a ton of McDonald’s for first responders and residents in the area.

Buttigieg came with a hard hat and an attitude, at 7 a.m. in the morning.

Reporters tried to ask him questions but he blew them off and his press secretary got up in their faces. She said she didn’t want to have a conversation on camera for a public appearance with her boss, and that asking that she do so was “aggressive.”

Isn’t answering questions on camera part of the job of a press secretary? Especially when they need to answer up for how badly they have dealt with this. This is like rubbing salt into the wound when they wouldn’t respond.

Buttigieg ducked another question from a reporter about his failure to do his job.

Buttigieg did tour the site of the wreck.


Some, like Steve Guest, Sen. Ted Cruz’s Special Advisor for Communications, noted the irony of Buttigieg’s recent remarks about construction workers as he stood there in East Palestine wearing a construction hard hat. For those who know the history: this looked a bit like a “Mike Dukakis” moment to me, with Buttigieg sporting that hard hat.

Mike Dukakis got mocked into next week during his run for the presidency in 1988 when he wore a helmet that made his head look very funny while trying to appear tough. Unfortunately, with Buttigieg it’s not just the momentary look, it’s the incompetent way he’s handled the whole of his job so far, across multiple situations.

CNN spoke to some of the residents and it was pretty clear that this is a day late and dollar-short appearance for Buttigieg. There may not be much that he can do to recover any semblance of credibility for the Biden administration in the area.


“What can [Pete Buttigieg] do on the ground today that would actually help you guys?” the residents were asked. “I think that for a lot of people, it’s a little — no matter what happens right now — is gonna seem very late on the federal response, this happened on the third of February,” one responded.

That’s the bottom line: the people in the area don’t believe they care at this point. If they cared they would have responded long before this, and not had to be shamed into it by Trump going there to show them how to respond.



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