Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 19, 2021
What part of family leave, particularly for the arrival of infant twins, defies understanding?
This Republican Party/MAGA obsession with finding blame in nothingness is a constant, unrefreshing smack in the face. The target this week: Pete Buttigieg, secretary of transportation, who is finishing a normal six-week paternity leave that started with the arrival of twins for Buttigieg and his spouse.
The problem is, of course, that the timing was such that it overlaps growing concern about the supply line backlogs, primarily caused by effects of covid, that will take some months to unravel. Had Buttigieg been making phone calls 24/7 from his Washington office rather than from home, like the rest of us, there would still be supply line backlogs involving private companies and international shippers
None of that seems to matter to Sen. Marcia Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who were calling for Buttigieg to “do his job,” and suggested they just found out he was on family leave — that was announced in August. And, naturally, Tucker Carlson on Fox News, who felt obliged to intone “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it. Trying to figure out how to breastfeed, no word on how that went.”
As we saw, Buttigieg calmly retorted that apparently Carlson has never heard of bottle feeding, and to suggest, appropriately while childcare legislation is pending, that care for infants is indeed part of “work.”
Attack the Person, Not the Issue
Sure, Tucker Carlson was and is offensive — on a range of social and policy issues, almost always resorting to personal attack rather than to address debate on what government policy might be. We understand the idea of “red meat” for partisan-laden political and culture wars, and a base appeal for ratings. But nothing has been said since that explains away the offensiveness.
And we all understand the need for the Biden administration as a whole, Buttigieg included, to address unraveling the complex of lagging truck drivers, port snafus, customs issues and a hugely inflated product demand from those who now do their buying online from home in creating a big backup in deliveries to homes and businesses alike.
What I would think most of the country does not understand is the need to personalize the arrival of twins in a household of two gay fathers as a subject for derision — unless, of course, that is the point of the Carlson broadside.
As it happens, the broadcast followed on announcements by the administration to do exactly what the Republicans are demanding. Biden proposes serious jawboning and coordination with private companies to spur their efforts to untangle port unloading of ships stuck for days offshore.
I find it impossible to believe that the singular daily appearance of Buttigieg in his office would make this set of problems disappear — he is back and supply problems have not gone away — or to believe that there is not a team of underlings in Transportation working with similar teams in Labor and Commerce to implement the desired programs to hasten job training and hiring of truckers, work longer hours for better pay, and to get more goods on trains more quickly.
What Problem Is Tucker Carlson Solving?
The pattern among Republicans to stop all attempts by the administration to solve a problem, and then to complain bitterly that there is no solution at hand, is both exhausting and worn by now.
It doesn’t matter if we are talking immigration, education, environment, international affairs, even climate. If Biden is for it, Republicans are against it. Okay, we get that.
But then Republicans also want to complain that the underlying problem is not being solved — omitting their role in blocking the means to address it — with a lot of personal or identity politics thrown into the mix.
Would Carlson have attacked a straight couple for the same parental leave rights? Would McConnell and Blackburn only schedule adoption arrivals when it is convenient for labor and business schedules at the nation’s ports and airports?
Instead of talking practical steps to get supply lines unclogged, then, we’re once again awash in gay rights, in “freedom of speech” issues in attacking people who follow a lifestyle that somehow this Fox commentator unlikes — despite the idea that Fox News itself has an inclusive family leave policy that would allow Carlson six weeks of leave.
We’ve settled gay marriage rights. We understand that being gay or trans or fluid is commonplace in this country and around the world, and that, legally, gay dads are due family leave.
What problem is Tucker Carlson or Republican leadership trying to solve here other than ruing the fact that Donald Trump is no longer president?