The Atlantic had published something, who knows what it was. It seemed interesting or clickable when it went by but the path to try to find it again led to the overstuffed home page, the answer to the question, Can money make a magazine so big nobody can afford to read it? Among all the headlines and subheadlines and bylines there was this combination: “What the Press Is Missing About Pete Buttigieg / Journalists are too focused on his sexual orientation / Rahm Emanuel.”
The Atlantic is definitely not short on writers. Is the mayor of Chicago short on things to do, as his final term runs out? What was Rahm Emanuel doing writing about what he thinks journalists think and are wrong to think about the mayor of South Bend, Indiana?
Truly, what was Rahm Emanuel doing? This was his argument:
But Buttigieg is a lot more than a symbol of his sexual orientation. He’s a Rhodes Scholar who, unlike most graduates of elite universities, chose to join the military. He’s a veteran who fought in Afghanistan. And he’s a devout Christian who is, quite frankly, more comfortable than most Democrats (and journalists) talking about how faith shapes his perspective on national politics.
But journalists aren’t digging much deeper than his orientation—and I have a theory on why. In the places where they live—in the pockets of the country that the Donald Trump minion Stephen Miller has disparagingly labeled “cosmopolitan”—sexuality is a hot topic. Maybe even the hottest topic. Military service? Not so much. Religious faith? Not at all.
This was, of course, completely untrue. The Mayor Pete brand is constructed out of every one of those things—Rhodes, Navy, religion—and they are all constantly being written about. In Politico’s big here-comes-the-mayor profile of February 2018, “the Episcopal church where he worships most Sundays” appeared in the very second sentence. The Rhodes scholarship arrived in the fourth paragraph. The sixth paragraph brought “Afghanistan” and “gay,” in that order.
Two years before that, Frank Bruni wrote about him in the New York Times:
South Bend, Ind. — If you went into some laboratory to concoct a perfect Democratic candidate, you’d be hard pressed to improve on Pete Buttigieg, the 34-year-old second-term mayor of this Rust Belt city, where he grew up and now lives just two blocks from his parents.
Education? He has a bachelor’s from Harvard and a master’s from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.
Public service? He’s a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve. For seven months in 2014, he was deployed to Afghanistan — and took an unpaid leave from work in order to go.
He regularly attends Sunday services at his Episcopal church. He runs half-marathons. His TEDx talk on urban innovation in South Bend is so polished and persuasive that by the end of it, you’ve hopped online to price real estate in the city.
Here was the Guardian, a month ago:
Like many of his rivals, he offers a stark contrast to the president in style and substance. Buttigieg is the son of a Maltese immigrant; a navy veteran who took leave from his civic day job to serve in Afghanistan; a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar; a devout Christian and a polyglot and bibliophile who learned Norwegian to read books by an author in Norway whose work had not yet been translated to English.
There was something unnerving about how false Rahm Emanuel’s account of things was. It was like someone telling you that nobody knows LeBron James comes from Akron, or that nobody talks about the robots in the Star Wars movies. It was so untrue that it couldn’t possibly have meant what it said—and here, the fact that the whole thing was being presented by a political operator in the guise of a normal writer became the only clear interpretive framework available. Maybe Emanuel was trying to call attention to the fact that Pete Buttigieg is gay?