Meanwhile, Biden has miserable approval ratings, leading to great frustration among Democrats. As my colleague Dan Balz asked, “Is it an issue of embassy or politics, of words without effect, or simply a sign of a tired and unhappy electorate that has stopped paying close attention to a president?” Whatever the answer may be, the White House seems speechless as the Republican Party engages in performative politics aimed at whipping up its base.
The good news is that there is a voice in the administration that is Consistently to the point, aggressive (without being mean) and sympathetic: Minister of Transport Pete Buttigieg. The bad news is that his job doesn’t typically lend itself to imparting embassy discipline to the White House and the party.
Buttigieg demonstrated his skills Sunday in an appearance on ABC News’ This Week. When asked whether Biden should do more about inflation, Buttigieg succinctly stated that it was the president’s top priority, reeling off actions Biden has taken on fuel prices and quickly pivoting to one point, the Biden too rare: The GOP has no “concrete” plan to combat inflation.
“We heard from Senator Rick Scott about tax increases for low- and middle-income Americans,” Buttigieg said. “There is ongoing pressure to … remove the ACA. And you have, you know, ongoing culture wars.”
He came back to the point later in the interview: “There’s our approach, which is to find solutions, to invest in our supply chains … to do whatever we can to bring down the costs for American families, like the cost of insulin and.” prescription drugs,” he said. “And then there’s the other path that conservatives in Congress have proposed, which doesn’t really say much about inflation. It’s about raising taxes on lower and middle class families, making a lot of political hay on the very real challenges families are feeling, and going to war against Mickey Mouse.”
Buttigieg was also adept at responding to accusations that Biden had done nothing to lower gas prices. He argued that releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and abandoning ethanol restrictions had helped “stabilize” fuel prices. He also emphasized that “the price of gasoline is not set by a scale in the Oval Office,” but by oil companies choosing not to fully utilize their oil leases. In response, Buttigieg pointed out “that the President has called for a ‘use it or lose it’ policy” that sets a price for unused permits. “So far, Republicans in Congress have blocked action to do anything like this.”
Buttigieg delivers the succinct message that Biden struggles to get across: The White House has brought the economy back. The President understands the families’ economic pain and is doing everything humanly possible to address inflation while allowing the Federal Reserve to do its job as the primary inflation-fighter.
Buttigieg even told Democrats how to defend their record:
Look at where this administration began, where there was a very real risk of recession if not depression, and an American bailout that has wrought tremendous community change across the country. Pretty much every mayor I speak to talks about the various investments they are making in their community as a result, and with it the exceptional job growth, exceptionally low unemployment and income increases for American families. This didn’t happen by itself.
Just as the government did to promote the infrastructure bill, it could upstage Buttigieg’s performances or even promote him with a few other capable communicators (e.g., National Economic Council director Brian Deese, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm) to help the Charges against reducing lead costs for families.
Nevertheless, a transport minister can only do so much. Biden may consider promoting him if others leave (or are pushed to). As the administration’s best ambassador, Buttigieg needs a job that matches his talent, even if it means sacking less-skilled advisors.