September 14, 2019

Three Cheers for Pete Buttigieg. (Boot·edge·edge)

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Nah, we don’t think he’s going to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for President.

From the Mayor’s office in South Bend Indiana to the Oval office in Washington, DC, it is just a leap too far. But, in our judgment, he’s the best of the bunch. And we say that not so much as our commentary on the Democratic field, but rather as our commentary on this impressive relative newcomer to the rough and tumble of the American political scrum. There’s nothing “manufactured” or stage-managed about Pete Buttigieg. He’s just plain outstanding.  

The Democratic front runners in the debate Thursday night were, we thought, strikingly unimpressive. Joe Biden seemed to get high debate marks for simply not getting too many low debate marks, although we thought his remark that no one should be in prison for non-violent crimes was rather breathtaking. Certainly, he got Bernie Madoff’s vote with that one (yeah, we know, Madoff doesn’t get a vote).

Elizabeth Warren’s pivot went unchallenged when George Stephanopoulos suggested that her Medicare-for-all plan would raise taxes on the middle class. She simply answered that medical costs for the middle class would go down, and dodged the tax implications. The increase in taxes for the middle class would be a certainty—the lower costs, a chimera. Her comment that she’s never met anyone who liked their private health insurance was, of course, ridiculous. Too many studies show the opposite to be true. The vast majority of people who have private health insurance like their private health insurance.

Bernie Sanders was, well, Bernie Sanders—free everything paid for by someone other than whoever votes for him.

But, back to Pete Buttigieg. When have we had someone so uniformly impressive vying for the public’s nod in a presidential election? Just think of it; a candidate to be Commander-in-Chief who actually volunteered and served in a combat zone, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, as an intelligence officer. A Harvard graduate (magna cum laude, no less) and a Rhodes Scholar with high honors in philosophy, politics, and economics. And, yes, he was valedictorian of his high school graduating class too. He’s consistent if he’s anything.

Early on in his career, Buttigieg worked as a consultant at McKinsey and Company. He’s a serious thinker and a decisive decision-maker. And he strikes us as one of those rare individuals who really are determined to make a difference. He believes, it seems to us, that one person can make a difference and that every person has an obligation to try.

Undoubtedly, Buttigieg could have pursued a very lucrative career in business or in consulting. Instead, he chose public service in the rough and tumble world of politics, the one career field where, especially in a struggling Midwestern city, announcing to the world that you are gay, could be a career-ender. With an anti-gay governor like Mike Pence leading your state that had to be a tough decision, but that’s what Buttigieg did. And he did it in the midst of his re-election campaign for Mayor.

But Buttigieg was doing good things for South Bend. Buttigieg’s ambitious “Vacant and Abandoned Properties Initiative” to repair or demolish blighted property, also known as “1,000 Properties in 1,000 days,” succeeded and succeeded right on schedule. After years of decline, the city was experiencing growth again. The defunct Studebaker factory, now known as Ignition Park, is reportedly attracting new tech companies and the downtown center is undergoing redevelopment, and unemployment has declined markedly. Many have begun to refer to South Bend as the turnaround city.

The debate Thursday night ended with the candidates being asked to describe the greatest obstacle in life they had to face and overcome. They all gave good answers—good answers that were worthy of the best campaign consultants. Buttigieg, however, candidly discussed his decision to openly attest to his life as a gay American, his decision to live openly and to marry the person he loved. And in a remarkable sign of the times, midwestern South Bend re-elected Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 80 percent of the vote.

When we ponder all that seems wrong with the political discourse and the divisiveness that seem to permeate our body politic, it’s reassuring to know that young leaders like Pete Buttigieg are also part of the political landscape—that committed, brave, bold and highly intelligent young leaders are among us. Pete Buttigieg probably won’t make it to the White House in 2020, but we’re very glad he’s in this race. It reminds us that there are really good, brave, selfless and talented people who are still willing to enter the disheartening and divisive morass that characterizes political reality in America today.

In Pete Buttigieg, we see clear-minded determination, maybe a touch of idealism, unfettered by the cynicism that permeates American politics today. In Pete Buttigieg, we see hope that the best and brightest and most energetic among us will still aspire to public service.

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10 responses to “Three Cheers for Pete Buttigieg. (Boot·edge·edge)”

  1. susan duman says:

    I, too, was impressed by Mayor Pete for all the reasons you mentioned.
    However, my takeaway from the debate which I watched with intense interest was the following:
    If Joe Biden’s advisors were to assemble and incorporate many of the opinions of the candidates on the stage there would be a moderate Democrat who would not be abhorrent to the President’s core group.
    I am in favor of the second amendment.
    I respect the outlook of many Republicans who want their wealth preserved.
    I am not in favor of free education. That being said, we have failed abhorrently in educating the underserved in our country. This administration has ignored many of these problems.
    We desperately need a change in leadership and attitude.
    Need I say more?

  2. James Fisher says:

    Thank you for your thorough research and candid insights about candidate Pete Buttigieg. I learned more about this amazing man from your column than from any other single source. Obviously, his personal courage cannot be questioned and I wish him luck in his presidential campaign.

  3. susan duman says:

    Fellow readers,
    I’ve changed my mind. Joe Biden is too old.

  4. Au contraire,
    Many have compared the old Mad Magazine image and philosophy of Alfred E. Neuman meme to Mayor Pete. Check it out and see the striking similarity.
    But to get serious.
    An editorial in today’s WSJ sees Mayor Pete’s view on Afghanistan in a little more temperate way than you portray, “Buttigieg’s Cracked History, Mayor Pete claims the U.S. started the war in Afghanistan” They go on to challenge him saying “Mayor Pete likes to tout his military experience as a credential to be Commander in Chief. But if he doesn’t even know who really started the war, can anyone trust his plans for getting us out?”

    In so far as law and order, despite the multiple promises and proferred solutions from Buttigieg, violent crime has risen year-on-year in South Bend, Indiana since Buttigieg took office in 2012. Last year marked the highest rate of violent crime in at least 20 years according to data released at a recent South Bend Board of Public Safety meeting. Promises, promises, Who Me Worry?

    Speaking critically of stage-managed comments by the candidates as you do, how can you then extoll Buttigieg’s ploy “in candidly discussing his decision to openly attest to his life as a gay American, his decision to live openly and to marry the person he loved.”
    Please, if that isn’t an intentional stratagem to engage the LGBTQ community to his campaign then I don’t know what it is!
    Please don’t be so quick to heap laudatory praise without examing both sides of the ledger and revealing both the good and bad of these candidates.

    • Reply to Dr. Silverstein: What is relevant about Pete Buttigieg and Afghanistan is that he volunteered. He served with distinction! He headed to harm’s way. He did his duty as a young American. Hello!!! Concerning Mayor Buttigieg and South Bend’s crime issues, we’ll rely on the judgment of the people of South Bend who returned him to office with 80% of the vote. Regarding Dr. Silverstein’s criticism of “extolling Buttigieg’s ploy in candidly discussing this decision to openly attest to his life s a gay American…” Three cheers for Pete Buttigieg!!!

  5. Martin Silvestri says:

    It may be a ‘leap’ too far .. as you say .. but we have almost 14 months to try and build a bridge for Mayor Pete. The US of A has been amazingly blessed to have had the ‘right’ person to lead us at the most pivotal and challenging moments in our brief history. And do we ever need such a man now.

  6. Sandy Goldman says:

    Another friend wrote that Mayor Pete is “too real, too smart and too good for today’s political climate.” I think he’s exactly what we need right now.

  7. Perry Green says:

    He is by far too perfect among the candidates displayed in the
    debate, but the Democratic Committee will never allow his
    candidacy. He was more rational in his talking points, except his
    answers were all too perfect. Perhaps it’s his high IQ. but am
    wary of going back to control of D.C. with leftist dreams.

  8. Replying to the author’s responses to my earlier comments.
    Undoubtedly Buttigieg is a brilliant man with great academic credentials, but as the saying goes, “Great academic credentials and honors are distinguishing, but a great leader (or President) they they do not make”. i.e President Jimmy Carter who graduated from the Naval Academy, worked under Captain Hyman Rickover in the Navy nuclear submarine program and was honored with numerous medals and awards turned out to be a mediocre president. Think Iran hostage crisis and the U.S. Energy Crisis. ( apologies to some of your readers who may view him differently).
    In so far as Buttigieg second election victory, a look at The South Bend Tribune newspaper from Oct 11, 2015 article about Buttigieg’s opponent in the coming election Kelly Jones makes these points, that she was not a nut after decades of pathetic GOP mayoral campaigns since a Republican last was elected mayor in 1967. But Jones, 47-year-old jewelry maker with no governmental or political experience other than a failed quest for a school board seat, offers no compelling reason for voters to believe she would be a better mayor than Buttigieg. She also lacks an effective campaign organization, campaign funding, and support even from Republicans in the business community.” Buttigieg garnered 8,515 and Jones
    2, 074 votes! WOW.
    Consequently, your comments about his being returned to office with 80% of the vote are rather embellished so far as endorsing his accomplishments.
    Finally, I have no ax to grind with his being gay, but the public pronouncement of his sexual preferences during the debate, something that was already widely known, can only be looked upon as pandering.

    • Reply to Dr. Silverstein:
      Dr. Silverstein makes the point or rather quotes someone (unidentified) who has made the point that great academic achievement does not make a great leader. We presume brilliance doesn’t disqualify someone from being a great leader either. Actually, on second thought, maybe today it does. He then disparages Pete Buttigieg’s 80% election victory by noting that his opponent was no superstar. He then makes the point that our reference to his election margin was, therefore, an embellishment. He closes his rebuttal to our essay by noting that Buttigieg’s acknowledgment that he was gay was pandering because “that was something already widely known.” Well, we find Dr. Silverstein’s dismissal of Pete Buttigieg’s accomplishments and candor a rather stunning example of what accomplished, truth-telling, men and women who enter politics are up against. Four Cheers for Pete Buttigieg!

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