Donald Trump Visits Derailment Site in Ohio and Promptly Insults the City’s Mayor
It was a risky move; Donald Trump visiting the site of the train derailment in Ohio meant that he was
It was a risky move; Donald Trump visiting the site of the train derailment in Ohio meant that he was risking turning the horrifying event into political theater.
It all started when a train derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, spilling toxic chemicals and risking an explosion. Officials decided to open the remaining chemical tanks and set them on fire to burn the dangerous chemicals into less toxic byproducts.
It has been a nerve-wracking and uncertain time for locals and US citizens worried about the growing and long-term impacts of the chemical spill.
Many strategists counseled against Trump the political candidate making a tour of the derailment site, for a variety of reasons.
But Trump being Trump, he didn’t listen and went anyway.
Everything critics predicted would happen did – and it ended up being even worse than they anticipated due to the biting nature of an unscripted Trump.
Donald Trump Insults Ohio Mayor
Trump calls East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway very easy to find https://t.co/ArhI1ca56d— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) February 23, 2023
The good news about the train derailment in Ohio is that no humans have died – yet. So far, the only deaths have been among fish, amphibians and reptiles – particularly susceptible to air and water pollutants.
The EPA has ordered the train company responsible for the derailment, Norfolk Southern, to clean up the area. However, they claim that water and air samples in the area remain clean, and that the chemicals do not post any risk to human life at this time.
Trump stood up before a number of local politicians and residents to speak about the disaster, blasting the Biden administration for a sluggish response and lamenting irresponsibility.
But he made one remark that has eyebrows everywhere raising.
As he was speaking to the crowd, Trump searched the room for Mayor Trent R. Conaway, saying, “Trent, where is Trent…he’s very easy to find,” as he finally turned to shake the mayor’s hand.
Conaway is a larger man who was wearing a cheerily bright shirt. Critics have pointed to the President’s history of mocking people for their weight to find the intentions behind the remark.
While it’s an inconsequential moment in the grand scheme of things, it’s a staggering reminder of the kind of impropriety and discomfort that Trump brings to the Presidency – something some people love, and more people dislike.
Donald Trump’s Policies May Have Led to the Derailment
Remember that the Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era policy that required faster brakes on trains carrying highly flammable materials, ended regular rail safety audits of railroads, etc;— LP (@lppolitical) February 22, 2023
But beyond his callous and truly mind-bogglingly tone deaf comments to the mayor, Trump’s visit to East Palestine had serious issues from the beginning.
After all, while he was President, Trump’s administration repealed an Obama-era safety rule that strengthened breaking laws for trains carrying dangerous chemicals. The Department of Transportation rule would have required “high-hazard” cargo trains hauling large amounts of flammable liquids (such as crude oil and ethanol – or vinyl chloride like this particular train) to be equipped with more sophisticated, electronically controlled brakes by 2023.
In the interest of making things cheaper for train companies and loosening regulations, Trump’s admin overturned the policy which seems to have led directly to the tragedy that befell Ohio earlier this month.
And local politicians worried that Trump’s visit – not as sitting President, but as 2024 candidate – would risk turning the entire area into a political tool.
The Washington Post reports, “The political fight over the rail disaster comes as state leaders in both parties dealing with the situation have sought to project unity. Appearing Tuesday alongside Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) said they were working with the Biden administration to ‘make sure we draw down whatever federal resources there are’ and have ‘put any kind of partisan politics aside.’
Conaway also said at the event, ‘This has been made into a political pawn game.’ But he stood by his comments Monday — when he criticized Biden’s visit to Kyiv ahead of the first anniversary of the Russian invasion. Biden has not visited East Palestine, nor has Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who just announced plans to visit on Thursday.”
There was no solid reason for Trump to visit the area and hold a rally other than to make himself a more desirable candidate in 2024, and even supporters seemed wary of his approach.
Trump bragged about bringing “Trump water” to locals. And he bizarrely told a crowd gathered to ask him questions to, “have fun,” seeming to forget that he was at the site of a serious environmental tragedy and not a Trump rally.
It ramped up political pressure over the Ohio disaster, but not in a way that could benefit anyone.
Now, instead of being the focus on recovery efforts behind a united front, Ohio has become a battleground of who can be the most righteously angry to score points for 2024.
So far, Biden doesn’t seem to be taking that bait – but it remains to be seen how often Trump will cite the disaster in the upcoming months.
Speaking out about the derailment is a double edged sword for the former POTUS however, because it’s hard to forget that his policies draw a direct line from cause to effect in this particular disaster.
Biden’s DOT, under the leadership of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, has faced criticism for a slow and unenthusiastic response. Buttigieg did make a trip to East Palestine this week – just after Trump – and faced criticism for ducking in and out quietly instead of turning it into another political spectacle.
Despite all of the furor, locals just seemed relieved to have the government paying attention, finally.