Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Has Biden Botched the East Palestine Aftermath?

Letting Trump get to East Palestine before Buttigieg or Biden was a mistake.
March 3, 2023
Has Biden Botched the East Palestine Aftermath? | Not My Party with Tim Miller

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Tim Miller: An Ohio train disaster and more time spent in Ukraine: Is Biden in for a world of trouble?

Adam West (from Family Guy): The whole world is watching.

Miller: This is “Not My Party,” brought to you by The Bulwark. Nearly a month after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, we are still learning about all the ways that the chemicals are impacting the environment and local residents.

Jesse Kirsch: Bronchitis, people are saying their eyes are burning.

Zsuzsa Gyenes: Projectile vomiting, he was saying, “I need water, I need water, I can’t breathe.”

News 5 Cleveland reporter (voiceover): Do you trust health officials telling you that your water is clean?

Facebook user Sam Hall (voiceover): There’s no way that’s safe.

Miller: And the Biden administration has come under fire for their response. Some of the critiques are legit, others are BS, and some are kind of split. So let’s break it down in a game of “Legit, Split, or Bullshit?”

Vanellope von Schweetz (from Wreck-It Ralph): Ooh fun!

Miller: All aboard!

Krystal Ball: Biden’s not gonna go to Ohio ’cause Ohio’s a red state now.

Miller: Annnd we’ve arrived in Bullshit Central Station. This take is pushed in right-wing media to advance the ‘conservatives are victims in the face of liberal elites’ narrative that they’re so obsessed with, but it ain’t the truth.

Raj (Scott Thompson in Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy): That’s bullsh*t.

Miller: Here are videos of the Republican governor of Ohio saying he was getting everything he needed from the feds.

Mike DeWine (separate clips): What I said to the president is, if I need additional help we’ll tell you, but the people who have been in here from the federal government are doing a very good job. . . . And look, the president called me and said, “Anything you need?” I have not called him back.

Miller: Doesn’t sound like a guy who’s been abandoned.

Miller: Remember, big portions of Biden’s infrastructure and CHIPS bills have gone to investing in communities like East Palestine where a lot of people didn’t vote for him.

Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory): Now, don’t you feel silly?

Miller: The caricature being pushed by MAGAs of Biden as an uncaring elite, it’s actually just projection. On to the next stop.

Ross Grooters: It is systemic, it needs some regulation, or we’re gonna continue to see things like what happened in Ohio.

Miller: And here I’m pretty split. It was the Trump administration who deregulated a train-safety rule that would’ve required special ECP brakes back in 2018. Experts like Steven Ditmeyer have said that these brakes would’ve “reduced the severity” of the damage in this instance. Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board has looked into the derailment, and has found another issue: the wheel bearings needing improved sensors.

Irwin Fletcher (Chevy Chase in Fletch): It’s all ball bearings nowadays.

Miller: So it seems like the Biden administration could have acted sooner to reimplement regulations that would’ve mitigated the damage. And now they’re backtracking on their early attempts to try to downplay their power in this instance, saying that they’ll try to implement new rules ASAP.

Fix-It Felix Jr. (from Wreck-It Ralph): I can fix it!

Beef Tobin (from The Great North): I have my doubts.

Miller: Next stop.

Ana Kasparian: Pete Buttigieg 20 days after the train derailment finally visits East Palestine, begrudgingly.

Miller: We’ve arrived somewhere completely legit.

Anabela Ysidro-Campos (Ginger Gonzaga on Space Force): Not a good look.

Miller: I get Biden and Pete’s initial hesitation. You can’t fly to the site of every train derailment, there are about a thousand every year.

John LaMarr (J. Lee on The Orville): I’m, I’m sorry, what?

Miller: Here’s a deadly one for 2017 that Trump never visited. But as the days went on, this crash took on additional emotional resonance due to the scope of the environmental disaster in a place that, let’s be honest, has really been left behind by the global economy. I mean, this story is the full “Erin Brockovich.”

Erin Brockovich: What is really going on down in there? It just feels like a coverup.

Nora Diniro (Samantha Mathis in Pump Up the Volume): Now you’re in trouble.

Miller: In politics, optics matter. It’s important, especially for Democrats, to not just have a policy response, but to show people in MAGA America that they’re working just as hard for them. Letting Trump get to East Palestine before Pete or Biden was a mistake. And maybe the best strategic move that Orangina has made in a real long time.

Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy on Shameless): Oh come on, Joe.

Miller: Let’s take it to our last stop, Bullshit Heights.

Creepy AI voice reading Paul Gosar’s words: Joe Biden visiting Ukraine is a slap in the face to every American, especially the people of East Palestine, Ohio. Ukraine is not our friend, and Russia is not our enemy.

Miller: This one really gets my blood boiling, with one exception—

Jesse Watters: You saw President Joe Biden over in Ukraine,  did that make you feel slighted in any way?

Trent Conaway: Absolutely, that was the biggest slap in the face, that tells you right now he doesn’t care about us.

Miller: —the mayor of East Palestine saying he wanted Biden in his hometown instead of Kyiv. I get it, dude is advocating for his people. But for everyone else, like Josh Hawley: F you.

Sterling Archer (in a childhood flashback from Archer): Douche.

Miller: Ukraine is facing the biggest land war in Europe since the Nazis. Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv was historic, an important signal to the world that we are not gonna bend in the face of Russia’s brutal, deadly assault on a free people. Trying to pit rural Ohioans against the besieged people of Ukraine is gross, divisive, and frankly un-American.

Archer (as an adult): Come on, we’re better than that.

Miller: The Biden administration can and should be able to handle both. And now that Uncle Joe’s back on our shores it’s time for him to step up and head out to East Palestine.

Peter Griffin (from Family Guy): Go get him, Joe.

Miller: See you next time for more “Not My Party.”

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.