The drastic break that Pete Buttigieg’s vision and personality would represent from President Donald Trump propelled his rapid rise from little-known mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to one of the leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
But he’s still catching up on policy specifics – a reality he defended Monday in CNN’s town hall in New Hampshire. Here are four takeaways from that town hall:
Short on policy?
Buttigieg’s campaign website is missing a policy section – an omission that CNN’s Anderson Cooper pointed out is glaring after Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, in particular, had delved deep into policy specifics earlier Monday night.
Buttigieg responded that while policy is important, Democrats need to communicate their values without drowning voters in “minutiae.”
“I’ve been pretty clear where I stand on major issues,” he said, citing “Medicare for All” as an example.
“We’ll continue to roll out specific policy proposals, too,” he said. “But I also think it’s important we don’t drown people in minutiae before we’ve vindicated the values that animate our policies. We go right to the policy proposals and we expect people to be able to figure out what our values must be from that.”
“I expect it will be very easy to tell where I stand on every policy issue of our time. But I’m going to take time to lay that out, rather than competing strictly on the theoretical elements of the proposals themselves,” he said.
Buttigieg also said he planned to soon unveil a tool that would make it possible for people to pull up videos of him discussing specific policies and issues by entering a search word or phrase on his website. Minutes later, that feature was live.
“We’re in the second week of my campaign being official and we’ll continue building our website accordingly, too.”
A break from Sanders on prisoners voting
Buttigieg said prisoners should not be allowed to vote. “While incarcerated? No, I don’t think so,” the South Bend mayor said.
His position was a break from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who had advocated voting rights for incarcerated Americans, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who said that “we should have that conversation.”
“I do believe that when you are out – when you have served your sentence – part of being restored to society is that you are part of the political life of this nation,” Buttigieg said. “And one of the things that needs to be restored is your right to vote.”
But, Buttigieg said, those convicted of felonies and imprisoned have to forfeit their rights. “It does not make sense to have an exception for the right to vote,” he said.
Buttigieg backs Trump’s impeachment
Buttigieg backed impeaching Trump in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, saying the President has “made it pretty clear that he deserves impeachment.”
But Buttigieg also signaled that he won’t be pushing Trump’s impeachment on the campaign trail.
“I’m also going to leave it to the House and the Senate to figure that out,” he said. “My role in the process is trying to relegate Trumpism to the dustbin of history, and I think there’s no more decisive way to do that – especially to get Republicans to abandon this kind of deal with the devil they made – than to have just an absolute thumping at the ballot box for what it represents.”
South Bend police controversy
As American voters take a closer look at Buttigieg’s record, there has been heightened scrutiny of an episode involving secretly recorded tapes and Buttigieg’s demotion of the city’s former police chief Darryl Boykins, who is black.
In addressing the controversy Monday night, a student asked Buttigieg what was on the secret recordings, which were made at Boykins’ request, and allegedly include officers making racist comments about the chief. The mayor said he did not know and had never listened to the tapes because they may have violated federal wiretapping laws.
But Buttigieg explained that as a result of the controversy, he came to recognize that for many people in South Bend, the central issue was whether they could trust their police department.
“I was, frankly, a little slow to understand just how much anguish underlay the community’s response,” Buttigieg said. “It wasn’t just about whether we were right or wrong to be concerned about the federal wiretap act, it was about whether communities of color could trust that communities had their best interest at heart, the more I realized lifting the veil of mistrust between communities of color and our police department had to be one of my top priorities as mayor.”