Buttigieg Eases Eco-Friendly Attitude When Confronted on Jet Travel at Climate Summit


Seven hours. That’s how long 2020 Democrat presidential hopefuls expounded on the “climate crisis” on CNN during a town hall meeting this week. That’s basically like binge-watching a season of a show where almost all of the characters are going to be written off soon.

I watched it because it’s my job. If you watched it, you’re either Greta Thunberg or way too interested in the Democratic primaries. As for what it actually did for the environment, well, probably nothing. In fact, one could argue it did less than nothing, given how one of the candidates got there.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is currently at under 5 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics polling average. That means he’s still in the running — it’s early days, even though it feels like the campaign has been going on forever — but let’s not say that the guy is a frontrunner.

However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to go all-out for the nomination, even if it means killing the environment to do so.

Buttigieg has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars so far this year in private flights as part of his campaign. According to The Associated Press, he’s spent more than any of the other Democrat hopefuls — and it’s something Chris Cuomo called him out on during the town hall.

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Say what you will about Cuomo, the CNN anchor did manage to keep Buttigieg mildly accountable here:

“Your second-quarter filing says your campaign spent about $300,000 on private flying,” Cuomo said. “You’re going to get the finger shaken at you that you should not be doing that if you’re going to be the green guy.”

Do you think Pete Buttigieg is a hypocrite?

Buttigieg defended his decidedly un-eco-friendly methods while campaigning because, um, it’s a big country.

“Look, I’m interested in decarbonizing the fuel that goes into air travel. I also don’t believe we’re going to abolish air travel,” Buttigieg said, an apparent reference to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s Green New Deal, which looks to greatly reduce the amount of flying Americans do in order to make us carbon-neutral in the shortest amount of time.

“This is a big country and while I absolutely think we can do more to provide alternatives, like trains, I don’t think that we’re going to solve the question of how to get around the world without air travel. This is the sort of thing that I think we need to look at in a common-sense kind of way,” he said.

“And the right loves to sink their teeth into anything we say that makes it seem like we’re being unreasonable when actually all we’re saying is there’s got to be a way to make it less carbon-intensive.

“Sometimes — I took the subway today. Sometimes I fly because this is a very big country and I’m running to be president of the whole country, but look, you know, it involves meeting voters everywhere.”

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Wait, he’s going to be president of the whole country? Not just the blue states? Stop the presses — this guy’s serious.

I want to point out that Buttigieg’s base is often described as stuffily erudite, which is why he’s had trouble connecting with the wider Democrat electorate. I mention this because this is a guy who felt the need to explain to us a) he wants to be president of the entire United States and b) that’s a big country. Ponder that for a moment.

I’d also like to note that the right isn’t just going to sink its teeth into Democrats insisting that when it comes to travel, “there’s got to be a way to make it less carbon-intensive.” They’re also going to sink their teeth into the fact that Buttigieg doesn’t want to do much to make his campaign “less carbon-intensive.”

Think about it: This guy has spent $300,000 in private flying for the purposes of “meeting voters everywhere” and he’s currently at 4.4 percent in the RCP polling average. That’s over $65,000 per percentage point. The lesson here may not be that he’s not spending enough on private jets but that the private jet flights — among other things — simply aren’t working for him.

The rank hypocrisy didn’t stop after the seven-hour marathon Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, Buttigieg sat down with CNN again to talk some more about the climate crisis, because apparently viewers didn’t get enough global warming talk between the hours of 5 p.m. and midnight on the very same channel.

“If you look at the moments when this country rose to a major challenge — overcoming the Great Depression, winning World War II, going to the moon — it required something out of all of us,” Buttigieg said.

“I think we could be standing taller. See right now we’re in a mode where we’re, I think we’re thinking about it mostly through the perspective of guilt you know? ‘From using a straw to eating a burger am I part of the problem?’ And in a certain way, yes, but the most exciting thing is that we can all be part of the solution.”

Except — you guessed it — Mayor Pete isn’t part of the solution.

Imagine how excited he’ll be when he finds out he can practice what he preaches, too!

The “climate crisis” town hall managed to somehow be an epic waste of resources on a network where the programming usually doesn’t improve on staring into space for the same amount of time. However, if there was something you could take away from the seven squandered hours of airtime on Wednesday, it’s that these are candidates perfectly willing to propose solutions they themselves wouldn’t follow.

Buttigieg considers himself above buses or airline schedules because he’s running for president of the whole country and goshdarnit, it’s big.

I can’t picture that there’s an answer he could have given that would have exculpated himself from hypocrisy in this situation, but of the options open to him this clearly wasn’t the best one. He says there’s a crisis — just like every other Democrat out there. Just don’t expect him to act like there’s one.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture