Transporation Secretary Exasperated With Critics

( – Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg appears to be as exasperated with his critics as they are with him. This week he pushed back at comments about the expensive leather shoes he wore to visit East Palestine, Ohio.

“Who cares?” Buttigieg asked, saying that it was maddening that his critics were focused on his fashion while he was trying to devise a plan that would “save lives on our railroads.”

Buttigieg waited until February 23rd to visit the town of East Palestine, OH, after it was devastated by a train derailment on February 3rd. A Norfolk-Southern freight train of 50 cars derailed. At least ten were carrying toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride.

Clean up crews decided to do a “controlled burn” on the vinyl chloride instead of containing it, as this was the cheaper damage control option. This sent a visible mushroom cloud of toxic gas—including phosgene, which was used as a weapon in World War I—billowing over the town.

While the Environmental Protection Agency and state officials told residents the area was safe to return to shortly after, videos emerged on social media of schools of dead fish in rivers and flocks of dead birds in parking lots.

Feeling ignored by the White House and the federal government for weeks after the incident, Ohio residents sharply rebuked President Joe Biden and federal officials for not even bothering to show up. At the time of the crisis, Biden was making a surprise visit to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

Secretary Buttigieg didn’t arrive in East Palestine until 20 days after the derailment. Observers commented on his apparently expensive dress shoes, when, they said, work boots would have been more useful. It is likely that critics saw Buttigieg’s choice as an example of someone focused on his appearance rather than on the job at hand.

Buttigieg’s response to the public’s view of his management has alternated between irritated and accommodating. He says his presence on the scene earlier would have made no difference. However, he then acknowledged that locals would have felt recognized if a well-known official had appeared.

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