It’s Unethical For A Leader To Refuse To Fire Incompetent Subordinates. Somebody Tell President Biden

The current poster boy for incompetent Biden appointees and subordinates who are apparently immune from firing is Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Like so many in this administration, Buttigieg was hired to please a Democratic Party constituency, not because there was any reason to believe he would be good at his job. He was an ineffective mayor of a small city: that gave him neither experience in key transportation systems or a background in running a large bureaucracy. Buttigieg’s sole qualifications for the Cabinet position were and are that he is openly gay and in a same-sex marriage, making him “historic.” I know, I know: I don’t understand how where you want to put your whackadoodle makes you better at keeping the trains running on time either, but that’s apparently the theory.

To call Buttigieg a disaster in his job would be too kind. The supply chain fell apart on his watch. Shortly after taking over his 58,000-employee department, a supply chain breakdown damaged businesses, harmed consumers and fueled inflation. Meanwhile, the DOT Secretary has prioritized touch-feely DEI measures above actually overseeing the transportation systems. In the midst of the worst of the supply chain crisis, he took two months paternity leave. Throughout Buttigieg’s tenure, railroads had been unable to reach an agreement with the dozen labor unions representing their workers. Buttigieg was vacationing in Portugal when a rail strike seemed imminent in September, so Labor Secretary Marty Walsh stepped in to avert one. So far.

When soaring gas prices made highway transportation too expensive for many Americans, Buttigieg’s contribution was to lecture us on the need to buy electric cars. A system wide collapse at Southwest Airlines resulted in thousands of flight cancellations and delays over the holidays, stranding thousands of travelers. A primary cause was inadequate oversight of the airlines by the agencies under Buttigieg’s command. Then this week, a safety system outage forced the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily ground all U.S. flights for the first time since the 9/11 attacks.

But wait! There’s more! Buttigieg has also come under fire for his regular use of private government jets, often for less-than-urgent business. President Trump’s first HHS Secretary, Tom Price, was forced to resign over the same habit. Bret Baier asked for Buttigieg’s explanation for his expensive tastes in flight plans to Fox News:

Baier: “You’ve been a big advocate for the environment—the administration’s climate change policy. What do you say to people who ask, is it environmentally responsible to fly on private government jets when commercial options are available?”

Pete: “Well, when we’re making a decision about what kind of aircraft to use, we weigh a lot of things. That’s one of the things we consider. So is saving taxpayers money. Now, I fly the majority of the time in economy class on an airliner, just like everybody else,” Buttigieg claimed. “But there are cases where we use an FAA jet, a jet that’s assigned to my department. I’ll give you an example. I went to Wisconsin recently. This was last year, I think. […] We saved taxpayers $2,000 by using the FAA jet instead of buying those airline tickets.”

Oh. What? The FAA reportedly charges federal agencies $5,000 per hour for the use of a private jet. According to a recent analysis of his flight records, Buttigieg has used private jets 18 times since taking office. How could that possibly save taxpayers money?

Even if the series of transportation-related crises Buttigieg has presided over were just bad luck, past Cabinet members have had the integrity to resign under similar circumstances. These are positions measured by results, and by that measurement, Buttigieg’s tenure has been a failure. One wag noted that he’s been so bad at his job Americans “actually know who the Secretary of Transportation is.” Meanwhile, defenses of Buttigieg have been mainly of the “Republicans pounce” variety. Jill Zuckman, former head of public affairs in the Obama DOT, told Axios that Republicans are criticizing Buttigieg because they see him as a potential presidential candidate. “That’s not how past Transportation secretaries were treated,” she said.

Past Transportation secretaries weren’t this incompetent, Jill.

Why doesn’t Biden replace him, then? Simple: he’s still gay and married to a man. Since that’s why he got the job, the mere fact that he can’t do it very well won’t be enough to justify sacking him. This is the problem that is created when jobs are assigned by tribal memberships rather than demonstrated ability and qualifications. There are too many members of the administration with this lock on their jobs irrespective of their demonstrated incompetence, with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and ridiculous White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre prime examples.

In fairness, not firing or forcing resignations of under-performing appointees is hardly unique to Joe. Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Carter, Reagan—more Presidents than not have been reluctant and tardy firing failed Cabinet members. Few of those, however, were as frighteningly inept and Pete Buttigieg

10 thoughts on “It’s Unethical For A Leader To Refuse To Fire Incompetent Subordinates. Somebody Tell President Biden

  1. It’s likely the two-thousand-dollar savings came from not having to purchase plane tickets at the last second. He didn’t have to charge taxpayers for that, so it must be a savings. And frankly, Sec. Buttigieg highlighting a pitiable savings like that – when the government is spending money at its current rate – is little different than the doctor that surveys his bleeding-to-death patient and pats himself on the back for addressing a dangling cuticle.

    Honestly, I don’t think this Administration really much cares whether things work. It doesn’t care whether prices are low. It doesn’t care about the cost of fuel or eggs or milk or meat or cheese. It doesn’t care about whether auto dealerships have inventory to sell or whether your Wegman’s has groceries on the shelves you can buy. It doesn’t care if trains run or the conductors go on strike. It doesn’t care if planes are grounded for a few hours or even a few days.

    And if you’re angry about those things, you know what? The Administration doesn’t care about that, either.

    They. Don’t. Care.

  2. He and his husband also have a child and Pete’s just as cute as a button. And his father was a well-known and highly respected tenured Communist professor at the University of Notre Dame. Fortunately, his father is dead. So, in addition to all his wonderful attributes, Pete’s Red Diaper Baby.

  3. Well… To be fair to Biden, Pete hasn’t been caught stealing luggage at an airport.


    To be more realistic…. Pete’s position is probably something that was negotiated during the 2020 primary. If Pete and the other “moderates” (and I use that term very loosely) hadn’t backed out when they did, Bernie very well might have run away with the primary.

    Pete’s not even the first openly gay cabinet minister – Richard Grenell would like a word.

    • To which words I’d reply, “Richard, Acting Director of National Intelligence for less than three months isn’t historic, it’s a historical footnote.”

      I keep forgetting about the expanded Cabinet status.

  4. Genius idea…because Trump and others have also had horrendous picks for top jobs. How about if wonder-of-wonders, nominees for leadership positions in any administration actually had a proven track record in the arena they are to command. In that case, Buttigieg would understand transportation and actually have solved some problems involving such; Kamala would actually understand how to find the border she is supposed to oversee; and Mayorkas would understand what Homeland “security” means, as well as his often-used word “secure”. But the ability to perform their duties effectively is set at the top…so that means Biden would have to actually visit the southern border as it is, rather than a Disneyfied version of it cleaned up for his perusal.

  5. … This is the problem that is created when jobs are assigned by tribal memberships rather than demonstrated ability and qualifications…

    The problem is knowing what “competent” is in particular cases. Louis XVI got rid of all the dead wood (as he thought) in his Garde de Corps, replacing them with others with higher technical skills. Come the Revolution, only a single sergeant stood by him. I submit that there are indeed situations in which tribal memberships etc. constitute demonstrated ability and qualifications – by the appropriate measure. Would Biden be better off with a technically skilled underling but no way to control him, or a loyal Buttigieg – loyal if only for want of alternatives, but loyal – in a position to stop the skilled doing what Biden did not want? Which serves the deeper purpose better, a Colonel Hall or a Sergeant Bilko?

    • I’m going to agree with PM here. Biden is nominating people who check certain demographic boxes and discounting a whole lot of other differentiators. Giving precedence to a priority isn’t bad in and of itself… I sit on the board of a Community Foundation, we have a 13 person board and we try to get representation from every neighborhood the Foundation accepts grant applications from. There’s great reasons for that: It sends the message that every neighborhood has a voice on the board, those board members ideally have connections within their communities, and it helps spread the message that we exist to the community. Intangibles matter.

      But when you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel really hard because the priority is so egregiously narrow that the candidate pool is only a couple of names to begin with, you have a problem. I mean, “trans” gave us Rachel Levine, “Nonbinary” gave us Sam Brinton, “openly gay and married” gave us Pete Buttigieg, and “black woman” gave us Kamala Harris. Now, for most of those, I don’t think they sought out an enbee for the deputy assistant secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition… But when they saw that he was in the applicant pool, you’re damn right I think he made the shortlist on literally nothing else. And think of the last example from my list: What do we think Biden’s pool was once he announced that he’d choose a black woman as a running mate? Harris, Abrams, and…. Who, exactly? Does Cory Booker count? At a mere glance, one could tell that the pool was shallow and there probably wasn’t a genuine candidate in it, so the reasonable thing to do would be to give up on the demographics and widen the pool, maybe fine a black *or* female candidate. But Biden tapped Harris. This says everything. It is signature significance. Realistically, you’ll never find a perfect candidate. There are hundreds of competencies that someone could have, but you’ll rarely find someone that is good at everything. So you have to pick what to prioritize; What are your deal breakers? What is your bedrock base? What can you train someone into? What can you supplement with resources? Going through that process and picking Kamala Harris because your bedrock was “black woman” and the pool was maybe four people deep is a resounding condemnation of the priorities of the administration.

  6. At least it finally hit Obama that Chuck Hagel was a bad choice for SecDef after the fact, when he realized that anti-war senators usually aren’t very good at winning wars. Trump may have been brusque and undiplomatic in sacking Comey, but, like Harry Truman, it finally hit him that having a rogue senior high-profile figure in his administration or reporting to his administration was a net negative. GWB sent Paul O’Neil on his way, there is no place in the Cabinet for the openly disloyal (as opposed to those who merely point out potential problems). Biden probably neither knows nor cares what Buttigieg is doing or if he’s doing anything. He’s gay and married to a same-sex partner, he checks a mean box, and that’s all he needs to do.

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