Pete Buttigieg for Department of Transportation? Really?
While Joe Biden won’t officially be President-Elect Biden until January 6th when Congress will almost certainly ratify the results from last week’s Electoral College vote, he nonetheless continues with his efforts to fill out his Cabinet, and it is indeed prudent for him to do so. It would be even more prudent of Mr. Biden, however, if he were to fill those positions based on one’s competencies as opposed to one’s inherent traits. Prior to picking Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his Vice-Presidential running mate in August, Biden made no secret that the most important information on a candidate’s résumé was that individual’s gender and race. Biden told the world that he was going to pick a “woman of color,” and indeed he did. Biden’s identity-based hiring practices didn’t stop with Kamala Harris however, with his commitment to assembling a “cabinet of firsts,” and the recent naming of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as prospective Secretary of Transportation being just the latest example.
To state the obvious, Pete Buttigieg is a smart guy; no one disputes that fact. Furthermore, a person’s education is always appropriate to consider when filling a vacancy. And while Buttigieg has an exceptional list of educational achievements to ponder – Harvard graduate, Phi Beta Kappa member, and Rhodes Scholar – the disciplines of Buttigieg’s studies would seem to align better with the Department of Education, or Energy, or even Treasury. Mayor Pete has studied philosophy, politics and economics, all worthy subjects in which to be knowledgeable. But wouldn’t it make more sense to nominate someone with an education in civil engineering, logistics, or business management?
Not all knowledge is attained in the classroom, and practical experience can be invaluable, as any competent hiring manager or business owner will attest. Therefore, let’s consider the jobs which Buttigieg has held that may have given him knowledge of the transportation industry. Buttigieg worked as an “investigative intern” at a local Chicago television station, so we can assume he gained some experience in journalism and perhaps communications. He worked on presidential candidate John Kerry’s failed 2004 campaign as a policy and research specialist, so there’s some background in politics; but politics is not managing or governing. He worked in the Navy as an intelligence officer, which is again some good experience for someone working elsewhere in our Federal Government. The only real experience Buttigieg has that relates to transportation is the three years he spent consulting on the topics of “energy, retail, economic development, and logistics.” And of course, whatever transportation related issues he had to deal with during his time spent as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
South Bend, Indiana – Small Town USA
South Bend, Indiana is not a big city. With a population of 101,168, South Bend has fewer residents than that of Olathe, Kansas and Enterprise, Nevada. It’s likely that if it wasn’t for South Bend being home to the University of Notre Dame, it would be about as noteworthy as West Jordan, Utah, which also has more residents than South Bend. From a fiscal and financial standpoint, South Bend’s entire city budget in 2019, the last budget proposed by Buttigieg as South Bend’s Mayor, was only $358 million, with slightly over 1,000 employees. Regarding transportation-related issues, The South Bend Tribune reported that the city had a serious pothole problem by the end of Buttigieg’s second term, not to mention earlier problems with the city’s school bus network. Assuming Buttigieg is confirmed by the Senate as the new Secretary of the DOT, how will those experiences translate to his new responsibilities?
The 2019 budget for the federal Department of Transportation isn’t exactly pocket change. At $15.6 billion, the DOT spent over 4,000% more last year than the City of South Bend. Challenging issues facing our DOT include reforming our air traffic control system, modifying Amtrak’s long distance services, and updating the Essential Air Services (EAS) Program. Mr. Buttigieg will have a lot more to worry about than just potholes and school buses. And with 58,622 employees, the DOT has more than half the amount of employees that South Bend has residents.
Why Mayor Pete?
So what it is about Pete Buttigieg that makes him so appealing for Joe Biden to select him as our next Secretary of Transportation? There are plenty of intelligent, well-educated folks in this country whose studies were actually related to the field of transportation. There must be dozens of highly-experienced executives in the transportation industry who would jump at the opportunity to hold such a prestigious position. What could it possibly be about Pete Buttigieg that would entice Biden to select him?
Anyone who follows American politics, even from a high level, is aware of Pete Buttigieg’s most well-known attribute. Buttigieg isn’t best-known for his impressive education, or the work he did for non-profit organizations, or even the mediocre results he attained as mayor of South Bend. Pete Buttigieg is most remarkable for being an openly gay man. And it is for that reason, far more than any other attribute or item on his résumé, that Joe Biden selected him to lead the Department of Transportation. Joe Biden wants people in his Cabinet he can point to as having been persecuted by one systemic American injustice or another. Biden wants to appoint perceived victims, not proficient administrators.
During his introduction of Buttigieg as his selection last Wednesday, Biden explained, “We’ll have a Cabinet of barrier breakers.” Biden talked about Buttigieg’s education and intelligence, as well as what a nice guy he is. But Biden didn’t go into any detail about any specific qualifications Buttigieg possesses to lead the DOT. Because Buttigieg doesn’t have any.
Instead of a “Cabinet of Firsts,” How About a “Cabinet of Excellence?”
Biden’s effort to form a “Cabinet for firsts,” is problematic on so many levels. Under President Trump, we saw a cabinet that was selected based on who the president thought would do the best job. While some of those picks didn’t quite pan out, and others were absolute failures, Trump clearly tried to bring on the best people. With Joe Biden it’s not about what you can do, it’s about what you look like. It’s not about how effective you will be and your competence, it’s about whether or not you will appeal to his leftist base. Joe Biden, his advisors and his communication department – aka the mainstream media – don’t care about good governance, they care about appearances. Meritocracy be damned, give us wokeness.
The fact that Pete Buttigieg is openly gay doesn’t mean he’s not qualified to hold any position. He’s extremely bright, and who knows, maybe he’ll step in and do a good job. And while many of us on the Right hope that the more radical aspects of Biden’s agenda fail miserably, we can safely assume that almost all of us hope Buttigieg does just that: a good job. We need safe highways and efficient air traffic control, which means we need Buttigieg to do well. Pete Buttigieg’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with his job performance, but that is, after all, the entire point. Neither Pete Buttigieg nor anyone else should be turned down for a job just because they are gay, but they shouldn’t be hired strictly for that reason either. If we want excellence, and as Americans we should demand excellence, we must insist that only those who are capable and deserving be appointed to such important positions in our government, without any consideration of their gender, skin color or sexuality.