February 24, 2023

Buttigieg Loses His ‘Train of Thought’

The dithering transportation secretary finally paid a visit to East Palestine, and he didn’t disappoint his critics.

It was a moment that comedy writers dream of, blurted out against a sad backdrop of environmental disaster and governmental ineptitude.

There he was, Paternity Pothole Hardhat Pete Buttigieg, the former failed small-town mayor and former future first gay president who is now our nation’s transportation secretary, belatedly attempting to assuage the concerns of the citizens of East Palestine, site of a disastrous train derailment of freight cars hauling carcinogenic vinyl chloride on February 3. During his remarks, Buttigieg decried the “misinformation” that’s been “injected into this situation, none of which is to the benefit of the community.” Then he said:

“So, I think — sorry, I lost my train of thought. Umm…”

Of all the ways to put it. In fairness, it could’ve happened to any of us. We all go off track from time to time. Indeed, anyone who’s spoken in public has fallen victim to a sudden evaporation of coherent thought. In this case, it was as if a squirrel had happened along and nibbled up a crucial stretch of cognitive breadcrumbs along Mayor Pete’s carefully marked path.

Buttigieg’s visit included the necessary meetings and photo ops with local officials and community members, and he later tweeted some additional phoniness: “I’m amazed by the resilience and decency of the people of East Palestine after meeting them here and visiting the wreck site. We will never forget about them, and we will continue our actions to ensure safety and accountability.”

Having checked that box, “we” will now get back to the issues that matter, such as pushing electric vehicles and rooting out white racism in those construction crews.

The story, though, wasn’t so much what Buttigieg said in East Palestine as how long it took him to say it. He was slow off the mark to even comment about the derailment, which released vinyl chloride into the ground, and which included a three-day-long “controlled burn” of carcinogenic materials that sent a toxic cloud of poisonous smoke billowing into the air above the town.

When he finally did comment, it was to pooh-pooh the disaster by noting that these things happen all the time. “There are roughly 1,000 cases a year of a train derailing,” he said.

In fact, they don’t happen all the time. “Accidents like the one in East Palestine are very rare,” said Benjamin Dierker, executive director at Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, “in part because releasing and burning a hazmat payload is incredibly rare. Over the past two decades, fewer than 1% of all train accidents have resulted in a release of hazardous materials.”

What’s more, rail travel has gotten more safe during the past decade, not less so. As Dierker also noted: “In the past 10 years, hazardous materials have actually fared better than general rail movement, with the hazmat accident rate declining by around 55% while the general train accident rate declined by around 10%.”

Of course, Buttigieg compounded his initial fact-challenged dithering with his failure to visit the site for nearly three weeks. Three weeks. For comparison, our friends at Not the Bee wryly note that the Apollo 11 moon mission, the Appomattox campaign, the Titanic’s maiden voyage, and the Dunkirk evacuation all took less time than it took Pothole Pete to visit the people of East Palestine.

In fairness to Pete, as The Daily Caller’s Jennie Taer learned, the transportation secretary was “taking some personal time.”

So, the guy who went to East Palestine and lost his train of thought has resoundingly reinforced the belief that he’s the living embodiment of the Peter Principle. Like his boss in the Oval Office, Pothole Pete has failed up. He’s risen to his level of incompetence.

And the rest of us are the worse for it.

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