What happened: Pete Buttigieg is finally speaking out about the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The scandal-plagued secretary of transportation launched a media blitz this week to lash out at Republican critics and assure friendly journalists he hasn't done anything wrong.
On a conference call with reporters on Monday, the former McKinsey consultant said his department was "accelerating and augmenting our ongoing lines of effort on rail regulation and inspection," whatever that means. Buttigieg also attacked Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and others who have criticized his slow response to the Feb. 3 train derailment and his refusal to visit East Palestine to survey the damage.
"I am very interested in getting to know the residents of East Palestine, hearing from them about how they’ve been impacted and communicating with them about the steps that we’re taking," Buttigieg said on the conference call. "When the time is right, I do plan to visit East Palestine. I don’t have a date for you right now."
Why it matters: It is further evidence that Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is not qualified to be secretary of transportation. President Joe Biden nominated him in order to build his résumé, and because many journalists, Democratic donors, and politicians believe (without evidence) that Buttigieg is going to be the first gay president of the United States.
"Look, I was mayor of my hometown for eight years," Buttigieg told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday. "We dealt with a lot of disasters." It's not entirely clear what Buttigieg was talking about, unless he was referring to the time he pulled strings to get a small and perfectly adequate section of road repaved in front of his house in South Bend.
What they're saying:
• "Where’s Pete Buttigieg? Where’s he at?" — East Palestine resident during town meeting on February 16
• "I don’t know. Your guess is as good as [mine]. Yesterday was the first time I heard anything from the White House." — East Palestine mayor Trent Conaway, in response
• "That was the biggest slap in the face. That tells you right now [Joe Biden] doesn't care about us." — Conaway on Biden's surprise trip to Ukraine over the weekend
Context: The toxic train disaster is hardly the first transportation-related scandal Buttigieg has faced.