Opinion

Yes, Buttigieg Deserves Family Leave. No, That's Not the Point

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Posted: Oct 18, 2021 12:01 AM
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Yes, Buttigieg Deserves Family Leave. No, That's Not the Point

Source: Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AP

While the nation faces yet another crisis, this time to do with transportation, it happens to be coming at a time when Sec. Pete Buttigieg is on paternity leave. 

The issue is not so much that he took paid family leave to bond with his newborn adopted children--at least it shouldn't be. The issue is we're just now hearing about it, and during a crisis. "Oh, So That’s What Pete Buttigieg Has Been Doing," Katie's article was aptly titled, citing insight from POLITICO Playbook. 

Writing "Can Pete Buttigieg Have It All?," for the Thursday "West Wing Playbook," Alex Thompson and Tina Sfondeles acknowledgde that the secretary "has been MIA."

Further down they wrote:

They didn’t previously announce it, but Buttigieg’s office told West Wing Playbook that the secretary has actually been on paid leave since mid-August to spend time with his husband, Chasten, and their two newborn babies.

Not only did the office not "previously announce" something that happened two months ago, but the office also isn't forthcoming about it, period:

In the past, Cabinet secretaries felt compelled to come back sooner. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development JULIÁN CASTRO took about a “week or so” of leave after his child was born, his spokesperson told us.

In part, that’s because Cabinet secretaries are not eligible for the same paid family leave benefits that federal workers are. “Individuals in the executive branch who are appointed by the President to positions in the Executive Schedule are not covered by the leave system,” a spokesperson for the Office of Personnel Management said. “They do not earn leave and serve at the pleasure of the President. The President can choose to allow him to take time off.”

Asked if Biden approved the leave, a White House official didn’t directly answer but said in a statement that “Pete’s been a key member of the team since Day One, and has been critical as we shepherd the President’s agenda across the finish line. We’re overjoyed for him and Chasten, and believe every American should have access to paid family leave.”

Now, there will be people making this about criticizing paid family leave. Fox News host Tucker Carlson made headlines for bringing up "chestfeeding." On Sunday's edition of CNN's "State of the Union," Buttigieg was asked by host Jake Tapper about it:

BUTTIGIEG: As you might imagine, we're bottle-feeding, and doing it at all hours of the day and night. And I'm not going to apologize to Tucker Carlson or anyone else for taking care of my premature newborn infant twins.

The work that we are doing is joyful, fulfilling, wonderful work. It's important work. And it's work that every American ought to be able to do when they welcome a new child into their family.

I campaigned on that. So did the president. The Build Back Better agenda includes provisions for paid family leave. And, by the way, we're pretty much the only country left that doesn't have some kind of national policy for paid leave.

I think it's down to us and Papua New Guinea. It is long past time to make it possible for every American mother and father to take care of their children when a new child arrives in the family.

It need not be a talking point from the Left that the United States needs to get on board with the rest of the world here when it comes to having a national policy in favor of paid family leave. It's smart and it's compassionate. It's also pro-life. So why are pro-abortion leftists pushing it, then? It should be a conservative talking point, especially for the sake of encouraging families. 

In 2016 I wrote for Live Action about paid family leave from a pro-life perspective. For so many women who have abortions, finances tend to play a factor. Specifically, a Guttmacher Institute Study from 2005 found that 21 percent said they "can't leave job to take care of a baby."

In an opinion piece last month for The Washington Examiner, Madeline Fry Schultz asked "Why don’t conservative organizations offer more paid family leave?"

Even if he makes good points about family leave, we shouldn't let Buttigieg off the hook for job failures. When Tapper tried to ask the secretary why he didn't announce it, he demurred, naturally:

TAPPER: We're thrilled for your family. And we're happy that parental leave is a reality for so many in the U.S.

Looking back, as a Cabinet secretary, why didn't you or the Department of Transportation make an official announcement when you went on parental leave? And why did you not appoint an acting secretary while you were away?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, so, the way this works is, there is a deputy secretary, Polly Trottenberg, who's doing phenomenal work and who, as deputy secretaries do, can fill in when a secretary is not available.

Now, look, even though I have been on maternity leave, and I'm proud of it, obviously, given the nature of my job, when you take a job like mine, you understand and accept that you're going to have to be available 24/7, depending on what's going on, and you're going to have to engage.

And I did, even if that meant taking a phone call or making a decision from a hospital room. But I am so thankful for the phenomenal work that my colleagues at the Department of Transportation have done and are doing. And I'm thankful to be part of an administration that is walking the walk on our family values.

This administration is full of gaslighting experts. Has Trottenberg actually been doing "phenomenal work," though? If Buttigieg really has been "available 24/7," why are we facing yet another crisis?

The spin from there continued, as Buttigieg was adamant "the holidays are going to be a lot better this year than they were last year," despite the supply issues. 

To allow the White House and paid family leave advocates to frame it this way and only this way amounts to deceiving the American people.

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