"Can Pete Buttigieg have it all?"
So reads the subject line of Thursday's edition of Politico‘s "West Wing Playbook" newsletter, which includes a bombshell revelation about the wunderkind secretary of transportation:
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.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told Politico that Buttigieg has been "mostly offline" as the bipartisan infrastructure package was derailed by Democratic bickering and the supply chain crisis escalated to the point at which Christmas could be ruined for millions of Americans.
Buttigieg's secret absence has coincided with a precipitous decline in President Joe Biden's approval rating, which stood at 50 percent in mid-August. It has since fallen below 44 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
Although he has not shown up to his actual job, the secretary hasn't taken a break from self-promotion. Mayor Pete, a documentary film about Buttigieg's failed run for president in 2020, premiered Thursday at the Chicago International Film Festival.
UPDATE: Guess who was in Chicago this week?