WESTMINSTER WEST — When I listen to mayor Pete Buttigieg during a debate or interview, my old English-major heart all but swoons. His choice of words and turns of phrase are exquisite and often downright eloquent.
Even his off-the-cuff responses rarely include the usual uhs and you knows - plus, he knows the correct usage of fewer versus less. Now that's exciting! This guy has definitely read the classics, and he's a student of history - my kind of guy.
His views are more moderate than mine, but I was so taken with his oratory that I decided to do some research on him.
That's when I came crashing down to Earth, hard.
Several issues broke my heart, or at least the political portion. Here are three of them.
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Fundraising/money: Buttigieg has done really well with fundraising and for a reason - he accepts money from the big guns: tech, Wall Street, and the medical-industrial complex, including Big Pharma and insurance executives.
In addition, he deploys multiple bundlers who have access to very wealthy people.
To his credit, as of April he returned more than $30,000 to federal lobbyists and didn't accept donations from that crowd going forward. Did he do it because he felt pressure from the other candidates who refused that brand of dirty money or did he have a change of conscience? His fundraising numbers suggest the former.
History counts, so I went back to Buttigieg's South Bend mayoral races (2011 and 2015) to see if there was a fundraising pattern. I found scant information, but what I learned disturbed me.
On his first day in office, Buttigieg made a good move. He declared an executive order to institute a city code of ethics that dealt with several issues, including soliciting funding for campaigns, conflicts of interest, and the granting of government contracts to donors.
Yet, government contracts were issued to Buttigieg's donors on his watch, and his opponent in the 2015 mayoral race even accused him of granting no-bid contracts to his supporters.
The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has an article outlining all the ways that lobbyists and business donors profited from supporting Buttigieg. It's a disconcerting read.
Was it a matter of payback, or was it due to the small pool of contractors available in South Bend? After reading that CPI article, I've concluded payback, hands down.
Does Buttigieg have a pragmatic take-the-money-and-run strategy, vowing that large donors won't influence him? If so, he's naïve. Just look at the thousands of politicians, past and present, at the bottom of a slippery slope after having accepted money from powerful interests. That place is heaped with good intentions gone south and lost morals.
The argument that the good policies implemented outweigh the glad-handing with big-money interests has been disproven time and again.
Some former office holders have even admitted that fundraising took up a big chunk of time during their tenure and they became beholden to large donors rather than their constituents. And who can ignore the vast number of politicians who cash in after leaving office by becoming lobbyists or consultants to a myriad of big businesses?
The harsh reality is that lobbyists write many of the bills passed in both state and federal legislatures. And guess who they represent? Big businesses.
The American people factor into the equation less and less, and it shows in ways large and small throughout our country. In 2009, Sen Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) had his censor button turned off during a radio interview. He was very frustrated with the lack of progress on a bankruptcy-reform bill and said of the banks that ”they frankly own the place.”
That statement admits it all. Does Buttigieg really think that he can have it both ways?
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Health Care: In early 2018, Buttigieg tweeted the following: “I, Pete Buttigieg, politician, do henceforth and forthwith declare, most affirmatively and indubitably, unto the ages, that I do favor Medicare for All [...].”
He has since changed his support to “Medicare for All Who Want It,” stating that people should have a choice between private-pay insurance and an expanded version of Medicare. He believes that both approaches will end up in the same place, Medicare for All.
What caused him to change his approach?
Could it be the big bucks that he's accepted from the for-profit medical industry, Big Pharma, and insurance executives? You only have to look at our current system to know that until the profit is taken out of health care, millions of people will continue to suffer and even die because profits outrank caring for people.
The lobbyists are playing the fear-and-bogus-numbers game, and it's working. Many countries pay their health care providers well while ensuring good health care to all of their citizens.
We can do it, too. It's a matter of priorities and power.
I'm sickened (pun intended) that so many people are denied the basic right to health care so some executives can have three homes - it's disgusting.
Again, I think Buttigieg is trying to have it both ways: offer Medicare for All - eventually, maybe - and play ball with the big guys.
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Age: I think it takes a lot of hubris to run for president of the U.S. at the age of 37 - period.
Our founding fathers were very wise to require citizens be at least 35 in order to be president, but a 35-year-old in the 18th century is not the same as a 35-year-old in today's world.
No, I'm not an ageist. As a woman in my 60s, I know and live ageism - from the not-so-subtle cashier whose body language screams “hurry up,” to being an increasingly invisible member of society with each passing year. You don't have to look far to know that many people do not become wiser with age.
However, age does bring life experiences, and they count. I'm sure Buttigieg has learned much from his tenure as the mayor of South Bend and his other experiences but, in my view, not enough to run for president.
Reach for the stars, Mr. Buttigieg. Apply for a cabinet position or even run for the governor of Indiana - but president?
If I were queen of the forest, a person would need to be at least 45 to become president in this 21st century. His decision to run says a lot to me, and it's not in the plus column.
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There's no perfect candidate, and I've often found myself voting for people that I'm not crazy about. During those votes, I place a clothespin over my nose. It's silly and hurts, but somehow it helps.
The older I get, the more I view a candidate's fundraising practices as the lynchpin, the open book that tells me more about them than a website filled with policy proposals. It's my gold standard and, for me, Buttigieg misses that important mark.
In 2000, there was a high school student from South Bend who won the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage essay contest.
The student's name: Pete Buttigieg. The subject of his essay: his hero, Sen. Bernie Sanders.