MIA: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

pete buttigieg paid leave

Over the last six months, companies globally have sounded the alarm about a growing supply chain threat: the incredible backup at US ports, in particular at ports in California.

What started as a concern has spiraled into a full blown transportation emergency – one that threatens to spike already rising inflation and lead to scarcity of essential items here in the US.

The current supply chain crisis falls squarely within the purview of the Secretary of Transportation – given that it involves ports, rail, and trucking (ie the basic components of the Secretary of Transportation’s policy portfolio).

This transportation crisis comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been debating a bipartisan infrastructure plan. A plan that the Biden White House says will invest:

“around $550 billion in new federal investment in America’s roads and bridges, water infrastructure, resilience, internet, and more. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create good jobs, and make our economy more sustainable, resilient, and just.”

You would think that at this moment – a moment where infrastructure and the future of infrastructure was issue number 1 – that the Secretary of Transportation would be everywhere. That he would be one of the most critical voices in the entire country.

If you thought that, however, you’d be wrong.

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Pete Buttigieg, the former Mayor of South Bend, former Presidential candidate and Democratic Party wunderkind currently has the designation as Secretary of Transportation, but apparently he hasn’t actually been doing the job during this moment of crisis.

About a week ago, Fox News ran a story that noted:

“Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been uncharacteristically quiet over congested ports across the U.S., and his critics say if he ever wants to see whether a future presidential campaign could float, he’d better start addressing the problem before shipping delays worsen ahead of the holidays.”

Buttigieg’s silence was particularly noteworthy – not just because this was the most significant transportation policy moment that we have faced in more than 20 years – but also because Mayor Pete had been a noted fixture on cable news and on the DC cocktail party circuit in the first few months of the Biden administration.

The question of Buttigieg’s absence finally got an explanation, albeit after the fact when Politico ran a piece asking “Can Pete Buttigieg Have it All” in their daily West Wing playbook.

In the piece, it is noted that,


While U.S. ports faced anchor-to-anchor traffic and Congress nearly melted down over the president’s infrastructure bill in recent weeks, the usually omnipresent Transportation secretary was lying low. 

One of the White House’s go-to communicators didn’t appear on TV. He was absent on Capitol Hill during the negotiations over the bill he had been previously helping sell to different members of Congress. Conservative critics tried (unsuccessfully) to get #WheresPete to trend and Fox News ran a story on October 4 with the headline: “Buttigieg quiet on growing port congestion as shipping concerns build ahead of holidays.”

They didn’t previously announce it, but Buttigieg’s office told West Wing Playbook that the secretary has actually been on paid leave since mid-August to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies.”

Unbelievably, the Secretary of Transportation is MIA during the most significant moment in decades for the Department of Transportation. He is MIA without any notice, no explanation until after the fact, and insanely this is what we are told:

“For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation. “He has been ramping up activities since then.” As he does that, Buttigieg will “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children,” the spokesperson added.

Instead of criticizing Secretary Buttigieg for not even bothering to give the American people a heads up that he wouldn’t be around the corporate media is instead focusing on Tucker Carlson’s criticism of Mayor Pete.

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On his Fox News show, Carlson roundly criticized Buttigieg for being MIA:

“As just about every sane person has acknowledged, inflation is rising because the government has devalued the US dollar by making too many US dollars.

‘They’re like sand now, they’re not worth much. But still the White House does not seem concerned.

‘Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child – paternity leave, they call it – trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went.

‘But now he’s back in office as the Transportation Secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

In what can only be described as the most predictable attack of all time, the left and the corporate media criticized – dare I say pounced! – on Carlson’s comments, accusing him of being homophobic.

Let me be clear, I am gay and I have known and been friends with Tucker for a very long time. Long before Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or Joe Biden were supporting marriage equality – Tucker was. There is absolutely nothing homophobic about Tucker or about his criticism of Secretary Buttigieg.

The corporate media ought to be outraged at Buttigieg’s cavalier treatment of this crisis and his absolute dereliction of duty. If Mayor Pete isn’t up to the job – he should resign.


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is President of Right Turn Strategies. He is a contributor to The Hill, and a regular on the Kennedy... More about Christopher Barron

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