New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer’s profile of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, and how his military career has bolstered his political one, made Thursday’s front page in her article, “A View Outside the Wire Lifts Buttigieg Onstage.”
Reading Steinhauer’s loving profile of the South Bend, Indiana mayor was instructive in how easily the liberal press sheds its cynicism toward military heroes in politics when they happen to be fellow lefties (click “expand,” emphasis mine):
The last time a Democratic presidential nominee was trying to unseat a Republican incumbent, he arrived at the podium at the Democratic National Convention to tout his military service, his strongest credential: “I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty.”
Now, Pete Buttigieg, a former Navy intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, is taking a notably more modulated and targeted approach as he seeks his party’s nomination....
In the Democratic debate Tuesday night, Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., did not so much brag about his military experience as leverage it to outflank his rivals in a heated exchange over President Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds in northern Syria.
Steinhauer then quoted Buttigieg putting Beto O'Rourke in his place during Tuesday's debate when he said “I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal.”
She then continued to pour on the flowery praise (click “expand,” emphasis mine):
The strong showing in the Ohio debate was in no small part reliant on Mr. Buttigieg’s background as a service member and his ability to unpack questions about foreign policy and military intervention better than his opponents that night. His experience as a veteran, paired with his criticism of American conflicts over the last two decades, has the potential to appeal to a broad cross section of moderates and liberals alike.
At 37, roughly half the age of those other two Democrats, Mr. Buttigieg is running on a message of generational change and arguing that he would bring fresh thinking to economic problems facing middle-class and working-class people. He holds a mix of moderate and liberal views, making him harder to caricature as a leftist candidate. As a Midwesterner, he is trying to appeal to rural white Americans, voters who backed both Barack
His service as a Naval Reserve officer -- he decided to join the military after a 2008 campaign trip to Iowa for Barack Obama -- is one part of that biography that he is weaving into a larger political narrative concerned broadly with public service, America’s inherent inequities and the toxic bifurcation of the nation’s politics.
In many ways, he is the supersized version of the Democratic veterans who prevailed in the 2018 midterm elections. They campaigned as sensible, moderate antidotes to both Republican incumbents and more liberal Democrats, unburdened by the past foreign policy mistakes of either party.
The Times has been working hard to portray Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar as “moderate” alternatives to the “progressive” candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, actual voting records notwithstanding:
Mr. Buttigieg’s military service has been a ballast for his candidacy, an essential addition to a biography that, in addition to training on assault weapons, includes a Harvard degree, a Rhodes scholarship, a stint at a fancy consulting firm and marriage to another man.
Steinhauer even praised the “artful” way Buttigieg managed to work his veteran status into conversations. One imagines a more cynical tone from The Times if a conservative politician tried to name-drop his military experience every chance he could (emphasis mine):
As a candidate, Mr. Buttigieg does not lead with his veteran status, but rather sprinkles it through his conversation, a hint of flavor that is meant to be noticed, and the result of careful mental spade work meant to extrapolate his experiences into his political identity.
In a January television interview shortly after dipping his toe in the 2020 waters, he referred to himself as “a millennial, Episcopalian Maltese-American gay veteran mayor.” Asked if he was worried about being targeted by conservatives over his sexual orientation, he responded: “I’ve been deployed in a war zone. I am used to dealing with attacks.”
Steinhauer looks at Republicans quite differently.
During the 2016 Republican primaries, she went after Sen. Ted Cruz in personal terms in a story she cowrote, even showing sympathy for the devil (i.e. Donald Trump) compared with Cruz after the senator attacked Trump at a conservative gathering: “Armed with his usual arsenal of florid oratory, self-regard and blunt force, he came instead to rally them, someday, around Ted Cruz....He failed, at least for the moment. And in the process, he managed to do the unthinkable -- make Mr. Trump look like a victim.”
In April 2017, Steinhauer co-wrote a story on the media’s previous version of Beto O’Rourke: Jon Ossoff, a youthful Democratic hopeful who lost a race for a U.S. House seat in Georgia that November: “Mr. Ossoff grew up in the district and attended Paideia, an Atlanta private school known for nurturing creativity and individualism...”