President Joe Biden has yet to see the situation firsthand in East Palestine, Ohio – and only this week did his secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, make an appearance at the scene of the February 3 train derailment that led to evacuations and fears of air and water contamination.
But the day before Buttigieg's appearance, former President Donald Trump visited the beleaguered eastern Ohio village where residents are trying to cope with the toxic train derailment that has frustrated residents and local leaders about the federal government's response to their safety concerns.
The administration's handling of the disaster has drawn criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Tom Zawistowski, president of the Ohio-based tea party affiliated We the People Convention, argues that Trump "showed how it's done."
"The contrast between him and Joe Biden couldn't be more stark," Zawistowski tells AFN. "The president [Trump] came to town and brought tractor trailers full of bottled water. He brought hope, and he showed that he cared.
"It was so fun to see him interacting with the citizens," the conservative activist adds. "And you can't even imagine Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg doing the same thing."
When Buttigieg did come on Thursday, it wasn't the same – according to Zawistowski. "It's unnerving to have these incompetent people come in and do nothing," he says. "He came and left – and I hope he never comes back. And quite frankly, he's not going to do anything to help them anyway."
Some observers have suggested Biden hasn't visited East Palestine because it's not "blue" country. Columbiana County, where the village is located, voted 71.7% for Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Indeed, signs and flags seen around East Palestine even now broadcast residents' support for Trump – as well as for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate.