Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to head the Department of Transportation, got some advice Wednesday from a former Cabinet member and presidential candidate (as well as a popular-vote winner), Hillary Clinton.
Clinton, secretary of State during President Barack Obama’s first term, appeared on the final episode of Buttigieg’s podcast, The Deciding Decade. She congratulated Buttigieg on his nomination to a Cabinet post and offered him tips on how to prepare for the job.
“I’m very excited for you,” Clinton told Buttigieg, who if approved by the U.S. Senate would be the first out member of the LGBTQ+ community to hold a Senate-confirmed Cabinet position.
She advised him to immerse himself in transportation policy. She had been involved for some time with foreign policy, which the State Department handles, before she assumed her position there, but she still considered herself fortunate to receive great preparation from the department during the transition between the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, she said.
“First and foremost, you’ve got to demonstrate … that you’re going to be a good steward,” she noted, and she then recommended that he set some goals. “Clearly, just from my looking at it from this perspective, you’re going to be part of climate change — you have to be part of the overall administration approach to climate change, and you have to be part of trying to restore confidence in public transportation post-pandemic,” she said.
Transportation, be it roads, bridges, mass transit, or anything else, is key to connecting people with jobs and to creating and maintaining a good quality of life, Clinton pointed out. Buttigieg agreed, saying, “It’s a really exciting field.”
They also discussed being people of faith and maintaining their humanity while in public life. Buttigieg said Democrats don’t usually wear their faith on their sleeve, as they’ve recognized the harm done by efforts to impose one set of religious beliefs on everyone. Both he and Clinton acknowledged that religion, especially Christianity, has become widely associated with conservative political stances.
“Somehow, religion has been cast as a partisan enterprise,” Clinton said, adding that there are ways to bring it into the public sphere without being exclusionary. “I was always raised with the faith of hope and love,” not the faith of fear, she said.
Talking about staying grounded and maintaining humanity, Buttigieg noted that people in politics are often caricatured. “You get reduced to a cartoon character, hero or villain,” he said. Clinton responded that to counter the feelings stirred up by that, she has always relied on the satisfaction of getting things accomplished.
“It is so gratifying to find a way to help solve somebody’s problem,” she said. It’s important to recognize that you’re part of a larger movement of people who want to improve society, and not “let the naysayers tear you down and stop you,” she noted.
Clinton also commented on casting her vote for Biden as a member of the Electoral College in New York State. When she was asked to be an elector, she wondered if she should do so, as she’d advocated for abolishing the Electoral College as far back as 2000. But she decided to take the assignment, and the vote of electors turned out to be particularly important this year, what with Donald Trump and his supporters even calling for “alternate electors” to be appointed in states he lost. Casting the electoral vote for Biden “was an incredibly moving time,” she said.