Before I go into this, I am going to counter right off the bat the expected resistance to my post.
First off, I am not “attacking” President Biden in what you are about to read, and I would definitely fall in the 43 percent or so that approve of the job Biden has done. The man has achieved a lot in his first term and is not getting near the credit for it. Second, “lol who cares what the Republicans say or do” is not a strong defense. Plenty of people learned in 2016 how far laughing and dismissing buffoonery gets you in today’s political sphere.
Now that I got that out of the way, I think that the president and his Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg really need to go to East Palestine, and soon. For starters, they should go because there are plenty of frightened people in the area.
A trip to East Palestine would ease some fears and provide some comfort. My mother-in-law lives just five miles west, and in my wife’s daily phone conversations with her, she expresses worry about the situation. There is plenty of reasons to be fearful, some of them not true (we do live in the time of social media fake news), but many are real concerns.
There is also the concern that given where they live, they are forgotten and are being ignored. This is a real concern in many ways: People in lower-income areas are most at risk for environmental disasters and are often ignored or forgotten when one happens. This opens people in those areas to all sorts of bad outcomes because any disaster remediation is done half-assed because there is no real pressure on the powers that be to do right by the people affected by the disaster. There are indications this is happening right now in East Palestine.
So, that leads me from the humanitarian aspect to the political aspect of this disaster. Biden and Buttigieg are getting assailed by the GOP for a perceived lack of action, and to make matters worse, Failed Former President Donald Trump is going to East Palestine Wednesday.
No doubt, Trump is going to work in how he was screwed in the 2020 election and the derailment would never happen on his watch. Maybe he’ll toss around some paper towels. If your first impulse is to laugh at all this and roll your eyes, my friend, were you in a coma for the last seven years?
Of course, this is all ridiculous, and of course, Trump greatly weakened railroad regulations. But the Fox News official line will be that Trump visited and Biden could not be bothered. That will echo across the usual right-wing echo chamber, and no doubt will also be echoed by the usual suspects in DC media (prep yourself for the Very Serious and Sensible Centrist Voices of the Discourse to offer up their own version of this).
Biden’s visit to Ukraine, which I 100% support, will no doubt also be used against him here. “Biden goes all the way to Ukraine but can’t be bothered to care about people a few hours away” will be the brand of bullshit they will weave out of that.
Biden, and Secretary Pete, can of course counter all of this by going to East Palestine. Biden is very very good at being empathetic because in my opinion, his empathy is genuine. What Biden would say would be a clear contrast to Trump’s angry, ranting babble.
Biden could also outline a plan that would include taking over the testing and working with people in the area to help ensure any lasting effects are limited. He could also announce the reversal of Trump-era attacks on rail safety.
I will counter one other pushback to this on the political side that I anticipate: “Ohio’s a red state and a lost cause.” Two issues with that.
While “East Palestine is just outside of Pittsburgh” is hilarious to me because when my wife and I lived in Pittsburgh, it was an hour’s drive to my in-laws, the accident occurred just over the border from Pennsylvania. This is a state very much in play.
Also, people in Rust Belt states such as Wisconsin and Michigan very much relate to anything that happens in a neighboring state because they view themselves as being in the same region with the same concerns. Those three states are vital for Democrats in 2024.
Giving Republicans ammo for the 2024 election in the form of “the Democrats don’t care about people like you, but we do” is not going to be a good thing. You can dismiss it all you like, but what really matters is what the people in those states think. And how this could be spun by a hostile media to make even more people think Democrats don’t care about them.
John Fetterman outperformed Biden in red counties in the 2022 Senate race, counties like Columbiana County where East Palestine is, because he went to these places and demonstrated he cares about them. Here’s hoping the President and his team realize that, and they go to East Palestine before Trump. There is still time.
The last word goes to Richard Belzer, who died over the weekend at the age of 78. He was best known as Detective Munch on both the marvelous Homicide: Life in the Streets and Law and Order: SVU, forming an unlikely but delightful acting team with rapper/actor Ice-T.
6 thoughts on “Biden Needs To Go To East Palestine”
From across the Pacific, Biden looks like more than a competent leader, but a genuinely strong leader with a streak of humility – something some of his predecessors (not just the orange one) would have struggled with – and, as you say, genuine empathy. In that light, he should absolutely go, for all the reasons that you say, but most particularly because people don’t want to know about politics when they are in distress – they need to know that they are being listened to and cared for. Opportunists in this situation, or those who stay aware to avoid bad vision, generally get the contempt that they deserve – turning up, caring and actually fixing problems is what’s required. I thought that this was covered quite well by ‘The Crown’ (!) with the Aberfan disaster.
*away, not aware
Astute comparison, the Aberfan disaster on The Crown. I thought that was well portrayed…
I think he might be staying away at the request of DeWine, or to avoid the wrath of Repubs for showing up unannounced. The same goes for Mayo Pete. It’s a catch-22.
Presidents generally announce their visits, so he would certainly do that. I would also make a statement to that effect, if indeed DeWine asked him to stay away. Still, it is kind of a Catch 22.
President Biden should wait until the Governor specifically asks him to come. Put the onus for this where it belongs: Republican leadership in Ohio and the nation, which places corporate profit over everything.
Because whenever Biden or Buttigieg go to Ohio, the first responses you’ll hear (in no particular order) will be: What took him so long? He’s just getting in the way of the brave first responders! He’s hindering recovery efforts for a political grandstand play. He’s making it all about himself. And so on and so forth.
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