Opinion | Pete Buttigieg succeeds at failing


Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Senior columnist Nathaniel Langley criticizes Pete Buttigiege’s position as the United States Secretary of Transportation.

By Nathaniel Langley, Senior Columnist

It’s better to accomplish one thing than everything. However, if it’s difficult to even succeed at one thing, it’s time to move on to something else.

If you’re a current transportation secretary who’s only succeeded at failing, the time’s arrived to reopen that resume and shop around.

Secretary Pete Buttigieg of the Department of Transportation, i.e., “Mayor Pete” from the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, is the present “Secretary of Failure.” Buttigieg’s feeble leadership crashes the department responsible for coordinating effective federal transportation.

Despite serving since 2021, numerous fiascos flew under his watch: supply chain issues, failure to assist railroad workers, Southwest Airlines’ disastrous disruptions leaving thousands stranded and, according to ABC News, “the biggest shutdown of U.S. aviation since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” with the Federal Aviation Administration outage.

Nevertheless, Buttigieg recognizes the issues his department could solve. Particularly with aviation troubles, Ashraf Khalil for ABC News explains, “Buttigieg has repeatedly criticized U.S. airlines for chronic cancellations and shoddy customer service.”

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Yet, for all his “shoddy” service recognition, no serious response appears.

With no actual transportation secretary, only a politically appointed Democratic “rising star,” the nation falls further into tough travel. Consequently, America’s crumbling infrastructure spirals citizens into odysseys of canceled and delayed plans.

The repeated recognition of leadership shortcomings yet failure to accomplish anything is nothing new for Buttigieg.

In the summer of 2019, in South Bend, Indiana, police officer Ryan O’Neill shot and killed Eric Logan, sparking intense community outcries. Returning from the campaign trail’s spotlight to his mayoral duties, Buttigieg held a town hall to address his agonized constituents.

While audience members passionately called for answers, Buttigieg offered vague promises.

When questioned why the police department became less diverse under his administration, Buttigieg contended, “we need help.” Accepting responsibility, Buttigieg continued, “It could be … a failure of an individual, a failure of the policy, a failure of the technology. We will find out.”

His “non-explanation explanation” mirrors his current transportation criticisms: words that essentially mean, “My bad … We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

Still, the crowd reminded Buttigieg of the city’s racial divide; a divide worsened by a majority white police department appearing to target the Black population.

“Fire Knepper” chants compelled Buttigieg to acknowledge another officer known for excessive force.

Officer Aaron Knepper is infamous in South Bend. In 2016, Knepper was notably removed from street patrol due to numerous high-profile incidents.

One such incident included a 2012 moment where Knepper and others illegally entered a South Bend home. Knepper was one of three officers who “punched and used a Taser on (Deshawn) Franklin, then 17, while trying to handcuff him because they wrongly believed he was the suspect in a domestic violence case.”

Franklin’s family later sued the officers, yet “the jury awarded the family just $18 in damages from the officers.”

The South Bend Tribune’s Christian Sheckler interviewed Buttigieg following the 2016 removal: “He understood the outcry … but he also cautioned against rushing to conclusions about complaints that have not been resolved.”

As of October 2022, Knepper remained on the South Bend force. Speaking with a local news station as a logistics officer, Knepper offered improvements to address their understaffed police department.

At the 2019 town hall, one Buttigieg assertion encapsulates his inadequate leadership: “I would welcome more input from you about how I can do a better job.”

With unresolved racial tension as well as a vile officer still roaming the streets, Mayor Pete offered the same solutions Secretary Buttigieg supplied the nation: Nothing.

Strikingly, the secretary’s words — his only solution to fiascos — do not evolve. Secretary Buttigieg is no different than Mayor Pete. Whether it’s failing to address local or national affairs, the Harvard graduate cannot meet any moment.

Following the historic FAA system outage, the secretary exclaimed, “We’re gonna own it.” However, “owning” the problem does not change anyone’s life.

Besides offering his usual “listen and let’s work it out,” little has been done to alleviate the nation’s increasing transit troubles. Instead, the secretary seeks media spotlights to divert the nation’s gaze from his deficiencies.

A representation of this arrived when the secretary tweeted his support for a proposed high-speed rail network in the United States — an image that’s repeatedly circulated with Gen Zers.

Rather than meet and plan with construction groups, high-speed rail experts or anyone equipped with transportation skills, Buttigieg took to Twitter to score easy likes for the popular image. 

Likewise, the secretary recommended we “dream big” like Gen Z. The nation’s biggest fantasizer, however, is the secretary who tweets about a laborious high-speed rail meme while Americans lose patience over unreliable travel and supply chains.

“Listening” won’t help bring home those abandoned by canceled flights. “Owning” your shortcomings doesn’t assist in restocking grocery stores.

One cabinet member can’t return America onto the rails. Yet, anyone with real transit solutions and experience is better equipped to drive the department of transportation ahead.


Nathaniel is a senior in LAS.

[email protected]