Earlier this week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) questioned how many controversies Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg can weather before being fired or forced to resign.
During an episode of his podcast “Verdict” Cruz addressed the situation in East Palestine where a train derailed causing a significant spill of toxic chemicals. Cruz blasted President Joe Biden and Buttigieg for their botched response to the disaster.
“Let me ask you a question: What in the hell does Pete Buttigieg have to do to get fired?” Cruz asked, wondering if there has been another transportation secretary in American history “who has screwed more things up.”
Cruz cited the supply chain crisis, during which Buttigieg took an extended paternity leave, the major rail strike, which was barely averted last year, and failure of the NOTAM system, which forced the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily halt all flights in January.
“It’s almost as if picking out a small-town mayor with no experience is not a good idea to run a major cabinet agency like the Department of Transportation,” Cruz commented.
Cruz also hit out at Biden earlier in the episode.
“Look, it is ridiculous that Joe Biden has not been to East Palestine yet. You literally have an American city with a major derailment that was on fire, where the water is being poisoned, where the air is being poisoned, where it’s ongoing for multiple days, and this administration does not give a damn,” Cruz said.
“Why? Because that part of the state voted 70% for Donald Trump. And it’s clear their attitude: It’s all politics all the time. It’s all communications and PR all the time. And so going there is a bad message. And it really is striking,” he continued. “So, Donald Trump publicly said he was gonna go to East Palestine. And promptly the Biden administration said, ‘Ooh, we’ll go too now, yeah.'”
Following Trump’s visit to East Palestine on Wednesday, Buttigieg finally decided to make a visit himself, nearly three weeks after the train derailed.
During a press conference, Buttigieg appeared to express regret for not speaking out about the disaster “sooner,” after he waited to speak a word on the crash for 10 days.
“I felt strongly about this and could have expressed that sooner,” Buttigieg said. “Again, I was taking pains to respect the role that I have and the role that I don’t have, but that should not have stopped me from weighing in about how I felt about what was happening to this community.”
Buttigieg claimed that he didn’t speak out sooner because he was trying to strike a “balance” that respected alleged department norms.
“What I tried to do was balance two things — my desire to be involved and engaged in on the ground, which is how I am generally wired to act, and my desire to follow the norm of transportation secretaries allowing NTSB to really lead the initial stages of the public-facing work,” he said.
“I’ll do some thinking about whether I got that balance right,” he added. “But I think the most important thing is, first of all, making sure that the residents here have what they need.”
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