Ethics Dunce: Secretary Of Transportation (And Proud Dad!) Pete Buttigieg [Updated]


When I wrote in September about Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo abusing his paternal leave privileges to abandon his team at a crucial time in its battle to make 2021 the play-offs, I expected a lot of heated criticism (I didn’t, though I did get a provocative counter argument that became a Comment of the Day.) I wrote in part,

The Boston Red Sox recently completed a disastrous collapse that dropped them from first place in the American League East to third. As they went into battle with the two teams now ahead of them, their hottest hitter, Alex Verdugo, vanished on a four game paternity leave. Shortly thereafter, another hot hitter, Hunter Renfroe, was lost for five days on bereavement leave after his father died of cancer. T’was not always thus: in the days before the Players’ Union bargained to add such mid-season leave as a new benefit, if a player’s wife was in labor or a loved one died, it was at the team’s discretion whether he would be permitted to leave the team. OK, I can appreciate the need for the benefit, but both players abused the right. These guys both earn millions of dollars a year. They both routinely talk about the team’s quest to win the World Series, yet when their team really needed them, they absented themselves for many days because they could. That’s a betrayal of the team, team mates, and fans.

By the force of pure moral luck, Verdugo’s indulgence did no damage in the end: the Sox made the play-offs and have prospered (so far, though they lost last night), in great part because of Verdugo’s clutch hitting upon his return. That doesn’t change my ethics verdict on his dereliction of duty however (which the player reminds me of every time he gets a hit now, because Verdugo makes a baby-rocking gesture to his team mates in the dugout.) Compared to the Biden administration’s Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, however, Alex Verdugo is a model of dedication and responsibility.

Buttigieg and his husband Chasten adopted infant twins named Penelope and Joseph in August. The little bundles of joy arrived as product shortages and the supply chain problems had made themselves evident, a developing crisis that is worsening, and one that threatens the economy as well as businesses, jobs and the welfare of millions of Americans. It is also a situation squarely within the jurisdiction of the Transportation Department. Not since the airplane-executed terror attacks of September 11, 2001 has that agency had such a crucial task before it, nor have more Americans needed the performance of DOT to be diligent, timely, and effective.

Never mind! The Secretary of Transportation decided that this was still an appropriate time to take advantage of the Biden administration’s “family friendly” policies, and took two full months of paid leave while the supply chain problems multiplied and expanded. He wasn’t even online with his department during most of that time.

I apologize, Alex! Compared to Paternal Pete, you’re a self-sacrificing hero. I wish you were Secretary of Transportation.

Naturally, Buttigieg is defiant in his response to critics, which the mainstream news media is tarring as “conservatives”—you know, those mean, heartless people who just don’t care. No, those critics are properly called “People who understand what public service requires, what the obligations of a leader are and what professionalism means.” Obviously Buttigieg isn’t one of those people, and thus he is unqualified for his current job and any pubic office. As a professional and a public servant, Buttiegieg must be trusted by the public to put its needs first, not his own or those of his family, particularly during emergencies. Clearly, they can’t trust him.

To an ethicist who specializes in professional ethics (that’s me, by the way), Buttigieg’s excuses, deflections and rationalizations are infuriating. “It’s one thing to believe something as a matter of policy,” Buttigieg said about taking paid time off. “It’s another to live it and see how much of a difference it could make.” Difference to whom, Pete? How about the difference it makes to the millions of businesses, Americans and families who depend on you to do your job? Buttigieg doesn’t just not get it, he doesn’t even understand what “it” is.

Hey, if you want to put family first, that’s great, Pete. I support you! In fact, that’s why I run my own business, and work at home, which I began doing shortly after my wife and I adopted a baby boy from Russia. It’s a legitimate life choice. If you want to make that choice, however, there are some responsibilities you can’t take on. One of them is being Secretary of Transportation, unless you resolve to forgo “family friendly” benefits when the department and the nation need you.

The former South Bend mayor said on MSNBC yesterday  that he was “blessed to be able to experience that as an employee being able to have the flexibility to take care of our newborn children, which is by the way work. It’s joyful work. It’s wonderful work, but it’s definitely work.”

But it’s not the work you pledged to so when your accepted the position of Secretary of Transportation. Like being a baseball player with unique skills, leaders aren’t fungible. They can delegate tasks, but they can’t go AWL (that’s Absent With Leave) and expect that objects of their responsibility won’t suffer. The adoptions happened to clash with one of the times when making another “job” the priority was neither practical, prudent nor defensible for Buttigieg.

If Buttigieg wanted to be a daddy when the nation needed a Secretary of Transportation, he had an obligation to resign. If he wanted to be an ethical professional and public servant, then his proper choice was to keep his parental leave to a minimum.

34 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Secretary Of Transportation (And Proud Dad!) Pete Buttigieg [Updated]

      • I’m still confused about that photo. The mother gave birth in a hospital and covid notwithstanding, Pete and his husband were allowed into the hospital? I thought people were dying of covid alone in hospitals and relatives were banned from visiting them. Why are they sitting in a hospital bed? Did one of them deliver the twins? Why are they wearing patient plastic bracelets? Are they sick? Aren’t hospital beds in critical demand? Photographers are allowed into hospitals to do publicity shots?

  1. Jack, Jack, Jack. You just don’t get it, do you?

    This is the Brave New World people like Pete B and his fans are ushering in. Professional responsibility is a white supremacist, cis-gendered oppressive construct of the patriarchy. Supply chain problems are just about money and capitalism. You’re saying “supply chain problems” are more important than two gay guys being able to enjoy newborn babies together? What’s wrong with you? What’s more important than gay guys living a fully fulfilled life? People making money? And come on, what’s more important than time off? It’s a benefit. Use it or lose it. We are to be absolutely thrilled by Pete not acting like a fuddy-duddy 1950s Dad and going to work. This is progress. Wake up. This is the end of toxic masculinity. Huzzah! And besides, all these people and businesses can get covid checks from the government. Problem solved. Be kind. Love is love.

      • I saw that vomit inducing yard sign in our neighborhood yesterday.

        Pete is also a pure-bred red diaper baby. His father’s a Commie historian. How can this be? Commies in congress and the cabinet? (And Commies on the tenured faculty at Notre Dame!)

    • See Pete. See Pete play the gay card:

      BUTTIGIEG: Well, look, this attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk. So, obviously, we know that there’s some dark places where some of these attitudes come from.

  2. So I agree more with you here, for two main reasons. The first is simply that an adoption is very different from giving birth. The mother has a great many physical, mental, and emotional needs that need fulfilling and her husband (learning that Verdugo was not married to the mother of his child actually modified my position as well) has a primary responsibility to her. However, Buttigieg and his partner did not give birth. Neither of them is prohibited for lifting more than 10 pounds (a smaller than average baby plus carrier is usually over this limit). Neither of them are bleeding, dizzy, throwing clots, or even nursing. There are no physical needs caused by the total disruption of the abdominal muscles, there are no mental or emotional needs caused by the massively swinging hormones. There may be physical, mental, and emotional needs to adoption, I am not denying that, but giving birth is a “whole ‘nother story” that has many physical and psychological effects primarily on one of the two in the couple, and that one needs help.

    Second, in the case of Verdugo, I was arguing for one week, which for most blue collar workers, is 4-5 days off of work, and in the more white-ish collar fields I am familiar with, all seven days, but except for one, maybe two, while the woman is delivering the baby, they can still answer the phone and work (usually for free) from home/hospital on their computers. He took four days. Buttigieg is taking a MONTH. If a man can afford to take a month, both financially and as a break from their responsibility, and the company allows it, I see no problem, but you are right that he is irreplaceable in terms of his responsibilities. At the minimum, he should act like an engineer and be on the blasted phone/computer all the time. (My husband has to do so both for our new baby or while on vacation/sick days.)

    That being said, I do not like Buttigieg and while I am trying to approach thus logically, it may color my opinion.

    • Sarah, ironically, if a woman were the sitting Secretary of Transportation and had been pregnant and given birth this week, I’m certain she’d be photographed on the phone and at a computer while she breast fed. This would be the “women can do everything better than men” narrative. You know, superwoman. But that’s not this narrative. This is the “Gay guys are superior to heterosexual guys” narrative in play here.

      • This is true, freaking obnoxious, and I’m going to call those women dunces as well, though I disagree that she’d be back to work after three days. Most hospitals tend not to let you out until the 2-3 day mark for a vaginal delivery and 5-7 for a C-section. My hospital will release you at 24 hours IFF your child was born between 9 and 5. I think that women who give birth to babies and go directly back to work, except in cases where they desperately need the money (and even the poorest women I’ve met could take off the strongly suggested six weeks of necessarily physical recovery time, even if they had to visit a food bank for it) are being stupid and suggesting to others that stupid is the way to go.

        My point, this whole time has been that if you choose to have children, they need to come first. I generally also believe that USING the employers family leave policy is not ABUSING the family leave policy. If an employer has a good policy, they believe it is appropriate, otherwise they wouldn’t have it. My husband’s employer only has unpaid FMLA or vacation, and if you take vacation, you are still docked from your rolling 12 month FMLA leave.

        The one qualm I have with condemning Buttigieg for this choice is that his employer made the policy. We don’t condemn employees for using a 9-80 policy to routinely take three day weekends. You don’t condemn long term employees (even irreplacable employees) for taking sick time when they need surgery on the rotator cuff they wrecked on an iron man the week before a major project. Benefits exist to be used and using them is not abusing them. Many people choose jobs based on benefits, salary being only one of the benefits of a given job.

        As a note that factors into my condemnation of this rather eggregious use of a lot of baby leave by an “essential government employee”, the photo op suggesting one of these two men gave birth to the baby grinds my gears. I certainly believe that parental leave should be based on the physical realities of giving birth and a new baby, not woke “free money for all” policies.

        • “My point, this whole time has been that if you choose to have children, they need to come first. I generally also believe that USING the employers family leave policy is not ABUSING the family leave policy. If an employer has a good policy, they believe it is appropriate, otherwise they wouldn’t have it. My husband’s employer only has unpaid FMLA or vacation, and if you take vacation, you are still docked from your rolling 12 month FMLA leave.”

          Fallacy. The fact that the law permits something doesn’t make it right, it only makes it legal. The fact that you can do something doesn’t mean you should. You know that.

          • Jack,

            Given the information johnburger2013 gave below, I would completely agree that Buttigieg has eggregiously crossed the line into abuse of any policy and should just resign at this point, so we are, I think, debating minutia for the issue at hand. And I did say earlier that a month, for someone in his position, is too much.

            That being said, I respectfully disagree with your position here. You are correct that legal does not mean right, but I do not think that applies here. Instead, I believe this is a comparison of priorities and views of compensation. An appropriately skilled individual looks for work in return for compensation. Employers know that for some individuals, the dollar signs are less important than other items in the benefits package. This is why some companies (prior to government mandate) occasionally tried to offer competitive medical insurances or dental packages. It is why sick time, vacation time, and PTO are offered the variety of ways that they are. Some companies offer 9-80 schedules knowing that people might want longer hours daily in return for 26 extra days off each year. Parental leave is another of those benefits, given to entice an employee for their labor.

            It is not abuse of a company to use your compensation in the form of benefits any more than it is abuse to spend your compensation dollars as you see fit. I do not see that using your compensation is opposed to giving your best work to the company when you are working. A company determines the level that they are willing to grant and you may take up to that, just as no one expects you to say, “well they offered me $65M, but I only want $60M. The extra 5 grand would be an abuse.”

            Now, an area I am not comfortable with is whether or not that 8 weeks he took is now forced on at least some employers by the federal government. (Of course his employer is the federal government, which causes its own problems.) This, to me, changes the calculation and abuse is now a term I would give an employee taking a huge amount of time, like Buttigieg’s month. With a government mandate, the conversation changes to the legal vs ethical, not compensation philosophy.

    • Actually, Buttegieg has been off work since the middle of August. That’s 8 weeks.

      While I agree with most of your post, i am not sure the physical effects of birth on the mother are the controlling issues here. My wife gave birth and dealt with the physical limitations of a C-section. Fatherhood is important and the bonding period is vital. I suspect that there is little difference between biological fatherhood and adoptive fatherhood. But, being self-employed at the time, I had to run a business and respond to clients’ needs. I made arrangements with other lawyers on pressing matters and dealt with problems at the arose.

      The discussion over fatherhood bonding is a smoke screen to hide the real issue: Buttegieg has no idea what he is doing. Remember, this guy was mayor of South Bend, Indiana. During his tenure, he allowed race and police relations to deteriorate. How complicated is it to run a small town like that, where most of the time you are doing the bidding of big-ass big-name universities where you simply have to demonstrate a basement level of skill to do a mediocre job. Yet, he couldn’t even do that. Now, he is a cabinet head, running the transportation system? What is his most recent celebration? That road projects will be more inclusive than ever? What does that even mean? They will start using multicolored cement on roads, bridges, and port cranes?

      Buttegieg has demonstrated that he has no concept of effective leadership, competence, or responsible delegation of duties. His interview on MSNBC was pure leftist cant – criticism of his performance hiding its ugly homophobia: “Oh, you think I am doing a bad job? You must hate gays.” The interviewer – whose name escapes me at the moment – spent more time asking him about Tucker Carlson’s mockery than grilling him over why he has been missing in action, and how he intends to deal with the mess at the ports, which incidentally, are part and parcel of his supposed duties as transportation secretary. Butegieg’s answers were typical political theater, long on nice, lofty sounding words but devoid of any real content. She also didn’t ask him why he couldn’t be bothered to at least participate in meetings via zoom – you know, like phoning it in? According the the Biden Administration, he hasn’t even made himself available to discuss matters with THE ADMINISTRATION, who is his boss. The Administration is just as incompetent and even more cynical.


  3. What does it say about an employee when it takes over a month before people start to notice he’s not there? Perhaps it helps when there’s more concern about whether the boss is really “there”. Do you think Joe noticed Pete was missing? Was he told, but just forgot?

    Just one more empty shelf in this administration, I suppose.

  4. The fact that he was gone, what was it?? 6 weeks and no one really noticed until now… to me that says his position isn’t necessary and after the complete chaos that happens every time the Biden admin does anything please… stay on leave. They can’t make it better. It’s extremely complex and he doesn’t have the experience or understanding to deal with it. Ie he’s unqualified for anything like this job he is in and we all know it. So please.. stay away. Go to baby group or whatever parents who are on leave and are not recovering from the physical delivery do. They will only make it worse.

  5. Slojo’s approval rating on various subjects he has tampered with is something like 35-45%, I think.
    I am still trying to understand *what exactly* those people, and that is a lot of people, approve of.
    Could they articulate it and would it make any sense?

  6. At a recent job, we were informed by the business that a series of Accounts had mysteriously moved from “in-balance” to “out-of-balance” due to anomalies in a series of data transfers. The head of the department – who was out of town for a family member’s wedding – instructed all of us in the IT department to drop what we were doing and find a solution as quickly as possible, because the business needed the Accounts balanced for other obligations. All of us took that to mean “work until the solution is found and implemented”. So that’s what all of us did – all day and into the evening. All of us, that is, except one. One individual – who happened to be the one in charge of the code around the suspect data transfers – worked until about 3:30pm and then sent out an email letting us know that he had reached his maximum 40 hours for the week and would be logging off and unavailable until Monday…it was Thursday afternoon. So we struggled that evening, all day Friday, and over the weekend to solve the intricate issue.

    A solution was eventually found, but it was largely without that individual’s much-needed assistance. I’m not sure about the rest of the team, but I was very frustrated by that person’s decision. I actually like the person – still do – but I believed it was dreadfully wrong to simply walk away from the problem because it would require giving the company a few hours of essentially unpaid time (the person was a contract employee). After all, most of the rest of us were salaried employees and were effectively “working for free” as well.

    My dad – one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known – missed numerous evening meals when we were growing up, missed a few baseball games I played, and missed more than a few nights of sleep, all because duty called at work and it was important. There would be evenings when he would drive 22 miles home at 6pm, eat a quick meal, sit with us for an hour, then get back in the car and drive 22 miles to work, and be there until 1 or 2am. Then he would drive home, get a few hours sleep, and be up at 6am to do it again. He did that not because he had a lot to say about his work, but rather because the quality of his work and his dedication to it said an awful lot about him.

    Getting the job done within spec (on time, on budget, and on target) was important to my dad. I have learned from that and those things are important to me (though I’m not nearly as good a software developer as my dad was). Clearly those ideals are not important to everyone. People – maybe like that contractor and Pete Buttigieg – sometimes view the paycheck as the end-all be-all. It’s forty hours and not a minute more. It’s “my plans” above anything – regardless of how dire the straits may be for others. But when people depend on goods and services and balanced accounts, forty hours might be just the beginning of the time required. A baseball game might need to be skipped. A church service might have to be deferred. Eight weeks or twelve weeks of paternity/maternity leave might need to be cut a bit short – or a LOT short – to make things right.

    Needless to say, the contractor’s term of service came due a few months later and was not renewed. The same might happen for Sec. Buttigieg. I would not be disappointed.

  7. If memory serves, he was recently a candidate for president.
    If he’d been elected, would he still have taken a month or two totally out of touch for paternity leave?

    • This isn’t that new, at least not elsewhere. Socialist Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero deliberately appointed Carme Chacon, seven months pregnant, as minister of defense in a huge middle finger to the Spanish armed forces, which he despised. She was out of work for months and the minister of the interior took over her portfolio as well. Far-left NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (roughly what AOC would be like as president, please no) gave birth, unmarried (of course), in office and simply stepped down for six weeks of maternity leave.

      Still, at least both of these ladies left SOMEONE in charge. Pete seems to have simply neglected his responsibilities altogether. However, that’s par for the course in an administration that is close to completely MIA. The president is a doddering, senile old man with no energy, the vice-president is supposedly in charge of many important initiatives but has done nothing except hide, and we really don’t hear much from State, Defense, or Homeland Security. The AG is more interested in going after parents who dare challenge the local BOE than stopping the rising crime rates everywhere in this nation. The fact that the Secretary of Transportation isn’t doing a damn thing while he coos over his recently adopted babies and the ports can’t move anything in or out of this nation shouldn’t really surprise anyone. And this guy wanted to sit in the big chair? Forget it.

      There seems to be a “whatever, leave us alone,” attitude in this administration, with a president who is annoyed that the collapse of Afghanistan interrupted his vacation, a vice-president who scoffs at the fact she isn’t doing what she’s supposed to be doing, and cabinet secretaries who just can’t be bothered. They claimed the adults would be back in charge in this administration, but right now it looks like no one is in charge. This nation really didn’t care if anyone was in charge in 1976, it was fed up with the leadership in Washington whoever it was. We know where that got us. This nation supposedly DID care who was in charge this time out, though. Congratulations, voters, you let yourselves be tricked again. Enjoy total incompetence and apathy in charge for the next three years, but hey, at least there won’t be any mean tweets, and that’s something.

      • To be fair (as they say in Letterkenny), the veep has been heavily engaged in promoting the space program. It’s probably Trump’s fault that so far she has only accomplished a video (widely praised as “cringeworthy” by critics) starring teen child actors playing five-year-olds, and produced by the (Canadian) company aptly named “Sinking Ship Entertainment”. SloJo has reportedly asked her to spearhead his push to have a man (or a species and gender to be selected by the MacArthur Foundation) on the moon by 2029. He’s been told the moon is often very cold, and he’s pretty sure that factors in making ice cream.
        C’mon man!


          Welp, there you have it. He’s doing “joyful work” while remaining fully engaged with his office, and Tucker Carlson can go perform an anatomically impossible sex act on himself.

          Did Biden even interview this guy before nominating him? Since when does the Secretary of Transportation’s joy trump keeping America’s supply lines open? More to the point, since when do Cabinet secretaries get to, putting it bluntly, shine the country they are supposed to be serving on? This isn’t telling your weekly tennis partner you’re going to be busy for a while with the new baby, so he’s going to have to find someone else to hit the court with. This isn’t even telling your boss you have stuff going on at home, so you need to move a meeting. This is playing full-on hooky from your job during a crisis, and sneering at anyone who calls you out on it, because you know you’re safe.

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