Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is excited about building stuff. That's the message he sent during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
"It's important not to be too subtle about the message," Buttigieg said, responding to a joke about the size of a ceremonial check he recently presented to a community in New Hampshire.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $19.5 million grant to a Berlin, N.H., project to pipe excess heat from the Burgess Biopower plant under streets and sidewalks to eliminate snow removal in downtown Berlin.
The former South Bend, Ind., mayor explained that as the former chief executive of a city, he understands the excitement that comes with innovative infrastructure projects.
"Any mayor from north of a certain latitude knows the battle of mayors versus snow is second only to the battle of mayors versus potholes," Buttigieg said, evoking a chuckle from the audience.
"Now I get to be someone who's helping mayors across the country -- like I used to be -- deal with something like that."
Buttigieg said it was "striking" that many Republican lawmakers went to the floor of the House or Senate and voted down infrastructure funding but then turned around and claimed responsibility for the improvements when returning to their home regions.
"There's nothing better than seeing a skeptic become a convert," Buttigieg continued. "I call it the sincerest form of flattery if somebody was against your policy, and then when it's actually benefiting people who live in their communities, they can't hug it close enough."
Buttigieg noted that regardless of the hypocrisy, officials shouldn't punish communities because their representative rejected the funding in Congress.
He says it's "frustrating" to see congressional Republicans take stances that seem more about a problem than a solution.
"Can anybody name the top five things that they've suggested to fight inflation? Can anyone name three? How about one?" Buttigieg asked.
He highlighted that Republicans voted no on the Inflation Reduction Act and provided no solutions to curb the problem.
"I would have loved nothing more than to have a debate between the Democratic Inflation Reduction Act and the Republican Inflation Reduction Act on the [floor of the House and Senate] and argued over which one was better. But there was only one, and it was ours. And, luckily, it passed."
Moving to the midterm elections in a few weeks, Colbert praised Buttigieg for his communication skills, complimented him on his presidential candidacy in 2020, and asked about his future presidential aspirations, "whether it's two years from now or 18 months from now," the comedian joked.
He continued by asking Buttigieg how society can handle that about 300 election-denying Republicans are on ballots and will stand for election in two weeks.
"How do you run for office and do so to a public that is losing its faith in the legitimacy, or at least the efficacy of their vote," he asked.
"One of the most important principles in democracy is that when you lose, you accept the outcome, and I've had to do that," Buttigieg explained. "Winning is much more fun than losing -- I've done both -- but when you lose, you accept the outcome. The reason that's so important is because we expect the same thing from citizens."
Buttigieg reminded people of a cornerstone of democracy which is the understanding that people follow laws and honor decisions by courts or Congress and a collective understanding of the truth.
"If we all have to live with the outcome of each of these policy choices, it's only fair that the people who make them have to live with the outcome of when we choose which one of them is going to be in charge. That's how the bargain works," he said.
No interview is complete without questions about Buttigieg's parenting, and this appearance was no exception.
His and Chasten's twins became topics of conversation, and Buttigieg deftly framed the discussion around their future.
According to him, as a new father, he thinks about projects and investments now that will benefit generations to come as he considers the needs of his children in the future.
He then noted that it is remarkable that most mammals can walk shortly after birth, whereas humans are helpless.
"But then what's amazing is, in very short order, you learn to take care of them. You realize how dependent you are because you, as a parent, can't do anything without friends and family and loved ones," he said, acknowledging everyone who supports their family.