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Buttigieg Interview: Mayor Responds to Police Shooting

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The next day, Buttigieg was booed and shouted at while sitting on stage in a high-school gym in South Bend, where he and the police chief held a town hall. One man yelled that Buttigieg seemed like he had to run back to South Carolina instead of doing his job there.The mayor told the crowd he accepts responsibility for what happened: His administration runs the police department; his administration had bought the body cameras. By the time he spoke to reporters after, there were tears in his eyes.

But for the most part, publicly and privately, Buttigieg has tried to respond to the shooting with the same calm and analytic approach that, in other circumstances, his fans outside of South Bend have found so appealing—but that critics feel can come off as the detached, someone-should-do-something air of a McKinsey management consultant, which Buttigieg briefly was in his 20s.

When I asked him on Saturday about the shooting, he said, “I really believe that if we don’t conquer racial inequity in my lifetime, it may be the thing that unravels the American project in my lifetime.” Still, when he was asked by a voter, at his campaign town hall, what his biggest surprise has been on the job, he said learning how to manage the plows during the big snowstorm that hit on his first day as mayor eight years ago.

“This is something that’s had an impact on our campaign, on me personally, and, most importantly of all, on my community,” Buttigieg told me in our interview. “This is a reminder that things come at you that you can’t always fully prepare for and can’t anticipate. And you need to be ready for that, especially as you’re competing for the toughest job in the world.

“It’s exceptionally serious compared to most things that we’ve dealt with. And, of course, it is different when you have national attention,” Buttigieg added, noting that some community members want to use the attention from his campaign to make sure that the city handles the shooting’s fallout in the right way. “They’re basically saying, ‘We have to get this right, not only for us, but because everyone’s watching,’” he said.

This all comes as Buttigieg has been struggling to attract African American support; of the more than 350 people who came to his campaign town hall on Saturday, the majority appeared to be white. The crisis is also unfolding in the middle of the most intense two weeks of the primary campaign so far: with major state-party political events and a Planned Parenthood forum over the weekend in South Carolina, the first debates this week, and a fundraising deadline on June 30 that his campaign is hoping he’ll meet with an outrageously high number. The fundraising events he missed in California likely could have netted him at least a few hundred thousand dollars, if not more.

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