December 17, 2020

Pete Buttigieg

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“President-elect Joe Biden announced Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday as his nominee to lead the U.S. Transportation Department.” Reuters

“As head of the Department of Transportation, Buttigieg would oversee an agency of some 53,000 employees, with oversight of the nation's airline industry, along with railroads, commercial trucking, mass transit and pipelines.” NPR

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From the Left

The left generally praises Buttigieg.

“In contrast to past presidents, Biden is almost treating certain Cabinet jobs like this is the British parliamentary system, in which a prime minister shoehorns allies into jobs that often have only a tenuous connection to their past areas of expertise. Another way to think about it is that Biden is taking a liberal-arts approach to filling the Cabinet. Or perhaps Biden sees someone like Buttigieg as akin to a Swiss Army knife with a bunch of blades that can be put to different uses as needed.”
James Hohmann, Washington Post

“Is Pete Buttigieg the most deserving person for this job? Emphatically not… It’s a fitting turn for a man who, to his enemies, represents how America’s failing institutions reward shiny credentials and unprincipled striving above experience or demonstrated success. And yet some optimism is warranted…

“In his time as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg was a standout on urban-design issues. He legalized accessory dwelling units (which, besides increasing housing availability, has the potential to reduce commutes), reduced and eliminated parking requirements, focused on reducing impervious surfaces (which are a major factor in urban flooding), and tried to make the streets safer for pedestrians. He pushed for a faster and more reliable rail connection to Chicago…

“There probably is some crusading reformer inside the Department of Transportation who would have made the ideal choice in the Biden administration. But that’s not what was on the menu, because the less important Cabinet jobs are political positions to reward allies… Within that framework, I think Buttigieg is an above-average choice.”
Henry Grabar, Slate

Some critique Buttigieg’s private sector experience. “Business journalist Duff McDonald, author of The Firm, a book about McKinsey, told Time magazine that McKinsey ‘might be the single greatest legitimizer of mass layoffs in history.’ Companies have always laid off workers when times are tight, but McKinsey ‘disrupted’ that convention by pushing companies to do so in prosperous times, too, he said…

“Experience at McKinsey is taken by many in government to signal that a person is smart, because of the firm’s well-known hiring preference for Ivy League whiz kids like Mayor Pete. But as the power of the grassroots left grows, that perception could change… it would be a mistake for us [on the left] to throw up our hands and give up on Biden — and not giving up means strenuously rejecting appointees like Buttigieg from companies like McKinsey.”
Liza Featherstone, Jacobin Magazine

Others argue, “Now, you may have a problem with McKinsey’s ethics, but you have to admit they know their stuff when it comes to cost-cutting. Buttigieg is therefore uniquely qualified to get to the bottom of U.S. infrastructure costs… He’ll bring a much-needed dose of managerial competence to an oft-neglected area of government policymaking. By focusing on identifying and remedying sources of excess cost in our infrastructure system, and by helping speed the transition to electric vehicles, he can have a major impact even in an era of political deadlock.”
Noah Smith, Bloomberg

“In May 1965, when being LGBTQ could land you in jail or strip you of your livelihood, Frank Kameny committed an audacious act of civil disobedience. He and a small group of other gay men and lesbians picketed the White House and State Departmentto protest discrimination in the federal government. Kameny was fired from his job as an astronomer at the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957 for being gay, thanks to a 1953 executive order from President Dwight D. Eisenhower that banned gay men and lesbians from federal jobs because he deemed them a national security threat…

Buttigieg’s elevation Wednesday is something Kameny could have only dreamed of: America’s first openly LGBTQ Cabinet secretary-designate. A gay married man who is not only embraced by his government, but also called upon to serve in it. Just as they were on Buttigieg’s historic presidential campaign, he and his husband, Chasten, represent our nation’s promise and ideals.”
Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post

From the Right

The right is critical of Buttigieg.

The right is critical of Buttigieg.

“Joe Biden had reportedly considered his former primary rival to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and then to head to Beijing as our ambassador to China. If all three of the positions the president-elect had in mind for Buttigieg seem completely unrelated, that's because they are… [Buttigieg’s] greatest transportation feat until now was making South Bend's downtown streets more pedestrian-friendly…

“Elections have consequences, and Republicans cannot and should not stonewall every one of Biden's nominations. They will have to pick their battles, and almost any nominee to run an operation as bureaucratic as the Transportation Department is simply not worth fighting. But Buttigieg's nomination cannot be interpreted as anything other than Biden repaying a political debt to the former mayor who crucially bowed out of the Democratic primary before Super Tuesday and endorsed Biden, arguably securing his eventual victory in the primary and then the White House.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

“Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg — who finished a click behind Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary — could have helped himself gain stature and foreign-policy chops with an appointment to serve as ambassador to China or the United Nations. But Buttigieg has been relegated to the Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, Keisha Lance Bottoms, the impressive female African-American mayor of Atlanta, was reportedly considered for some not very impressive jobs, as either ambassador to the Bahamas or head of the Small Business Administration. She won’t be joining the Biden administration…

“Biden’s top advisers and cabinet picks are people who have never run for elective office and appear to have no interest in doing so: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Treasury secretary Janet Yellen, Defense secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Any way you look at it, Biden’s cabinet picks have been good news for Kamala Harris’s 2024 campaign.”
John McCormack, National Review

“Why did Buttigieg accept the position? Mainly, I think, because he has nowhere else to go. It’s unlikely that he could win a race for governor or Senator in Indiana, or even a seat in the U.S. House. If Buttigieg wants to gain national office one day — and he surely does — he needs to park himself in a place where he’s not invisible and, in the process, pick up a credential more substantial than mayor of a small city

“It’s also possible that the Secretary of Transportation will have a fairly high profile in a Biden-Harris administration. Chris Cillizza points out that Biden has made rebuilding America’s infrastructure a key goal of his presidency. If Biden can get Congress to appropriate the money for this, Buttigieg would have a chance to shine (or fail).”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“His record in South Bend, though, isn’t stellar. It looks as though this is a case of Buttigieg failing up… While city residents waited for their streets to be repaired and stop having to get their vehicles repaired due to damage from potholes, Mayor Pete’s street was re-paved though it wasn’t even on the list to be re-paved. That sort of petty special treatment doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his leadership abilities. Is he up for the job of overseeing America’s infrastructure as the Biden administration anticipates spending billions of dollars on Joe’s ‘build back better’ agenda?”
Karen Townsend, Hot Air

“Despite the nominal idealism of multiculturalism, this looks like a diversity spoils system… The selection of the Biden cabinet, a serious matter, has become an almost absurdist exercise in box-checking appeasement…

“Mr. Biden’s 81 million votes and his presidency are undeniably an aggregation of diverse voters in the U.S., and yes, he tailored appeals to them. The question now is whether he or any American president should be able to assemble a government whose goal is to give the country the best possible execution of policy, or whether the presidency should be first of all a vessel through which competing factions receive [appointments] based on who or what they are.”
Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal

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