Buttigieg calls for fixing problems while 'there's still time'

The Detroit News

Detroit — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he brought good news and bad in his closing statement for the debate.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in Tuesday's first of two Democratic presidential primary debates  
 in Detroit.

The bad news is that the country is in trouble with climate change and the proliferation of guns.The good news is that there’s still time, barely, to fix the problems.

“We can tell our kids that, just before we ran out of time, we did what it took,” he said. “A rising tide can rise all boats.”

The reason Trump got within “cheating distance” of the White House was because the country was already in crisis, he said.

The U.S. is running out of time in addressing problems like climate change and a burgeoning threat against women’s right to choose, he added.

“We are not going to be able to meet this moment by recycling the same arguments, policies and politicians that have dominated Washington for as long as I have been alive,” he said. “We've got to summon the courage to walk away from the past and do something different."

Buttigieg, who would be the youngest person ever elected president, was asked if age should be a factor in picking a chief executive.

He said vision was more important than age, and that a younger candidate could offer new solutions to old problems.

“I don’t care how old you are,” he said. “We can have a great president at any age.”

Buttigieg was asked by a moderator about criticism he has received for the fatal shooting of a black resident by a white police officer in South Bend last month.

He said the city has responded by placing blacks on the city’s police board and by ensuring residents have a say in the city’s use-of-force policy.

“Our city has come together repeatedly. We’ve moved from hurting to healing,” he said.

Instead of focusing on decriminalizing illegal immigration, Buttigieg wants to take a more comprehensive approach to the problem.

He said the country has been working on the problem his whole life and already have proposed solutions. The problem is that officials don’t have the will to implement them.

“We’ve got a crisis on our hands,” he said. “It is a stain on the United States of America.”

Just like immigration, the debate over gun violence isn’t new, said Buttigieg.

And, just like immigration, the answers are already available, he said. One possible solution would be federal regulations such as universal background checks.

“This is the exact same conversation we've been having since I was in high school," he said. “We know what to do and it has not happened.”

As for economic issues, Buttigieg said the debate needed to move beyond the trade fight. He said the economy is changing before our eyes with people working in high tech changing jobs more often in a year than their parents did during their entire careers.

The country needs to respond to the quickly changing landscape by addressing new situations, such as allowing people in the gig economy to unionize.

“We need to put the interests of workers first,” he said.

Asked if he would withdraw all the troops from Afghanistan within one year of being elected president, Buttigieg said he would do so. The mayor, who fought in Afghanistan, said he thought he was going to be one of the last to fight in that country.

Buttigieg, 37, is vying to be the first openly gay person elected president.

As mayor, he has been criticized for the firing of the popular black police chief and the low number of African Americans on the police force. The city is 26% black.

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