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Historic transportation crises haunt Buttigieg

Thought Leader: Josh Kraushaar
January 18, 2023
Source: Axios

A historic string of air, rail and supply-chain meltdowns has plagued Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s first two years in office, placing him — for better or worse — at the center of crises affecting millions of people.

Why it matters: A modest Cabinet role has become a political albatross for one of the Democratic Party’s brightest young stars. Republicans have sought to make Buttigieg the face of the transport disruptions, while Democrats say his crisis leadership is proving his political mettle.

What’s happening: A safety system outage forced the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily ground all U.S. flights Wednesday for the first time since the 9/11 attacks.

The latest: President Biden has ordered Buttigieg to conduct an investigation of the flight system outage, which the FAA has preliminarily traced to a “damaged database file.” In response to a question at a Wednesday briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that Biden still has confidence in Buttigieg.

Between the lines: Buttigieg has in several cases been the victim of circumstances that predated his time in office — such as the ancient computers and infrastructure that appeared to contribute to the FAA disaster.

The other side: “You can’t go a day at DOT without some kind of a crisis. You have to provide the leadership, which I think Secretary Buttigieg has,” former Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Axios.

Be smart: The path from a second-tier Cabinet position like Transportation secretary to the White House — or any prominent elected office — was never as easy as advertised. By the time any future openings pop up, memories of his remarkable underdog presidential campaign will have faded.

Zoom in: Biden’s intention to run for re-election in 2024 removes a clear opportunity for Buttigieg to ascend to higher office.

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