OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
President Joe Biden provided what seemed to be an awkward response to a reporter on Saturday after he was asked whether he had any plans to visit East Palestine, Ohio, the site of this month’s horrific train derailment that led to a massive environmental disaster.
“Are you planning to travel to East Palestine, Ohio?” the reporter asked.
“This time, I’m not. I was — I did a whole video — I mean — you know, the — what the hell — on…” Biden struggled to explain.
“Zoom?” the reporter clarified, referring to the video chat platform.
“Zoom! Zoom. All I can hear every time I think of Zoom is that song of my generation, ‘Who’s Zoomin’ Who?’” Biden joked, making a reference to the song by Aretha Franklin that was actually released in 1985.
Q: Are you planning to travel to East Palestine Ohio?
BIDEN: This time, I’m not. I was — I did a whole video — I mean — you know, the — what the hell — on —
BIDEN: Zoom! Zoom. All I can hear every time I think of Zoom is that song of my generation, Who’s Zoomin’ Who? pic.twitter.com/J8uakpYzXP
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) February 25, 2023
The reporter’s question came after former President Donald Trump visited the small town earlier this week, delivering several pallets of bottled water and otherwise mingling with residents.
Fox News reported:
Trump’s planned visit comes after a train derailment on Feb. 3, when about 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern Railroad train carrying vinyl chloride derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, a small community that is located along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
The company opted to release the gas from the derailed cars, releasing potentially deadly fumes and other dangerous chemicals into the air, to prevent a disastrous explosion. Local residents were told to evacuate the area during the release, but were assured it was safe to return on Feb. 9.
Residents of the East Palestine community have reported severe symptoms from toxins and chemicals that have seeped into the air and waterways since the derailment on Feb. 7.
Also last week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg blamed the disaster on Trump’s deregulatory actions taken during his administration, though a Biden official pushed back on that.
“One thing he can do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch. I heard him say he had nothing to do with it, even though it was in his administration. So, if he had nothing to do with it and they did it in his administration against his will, maybe he can come out and say that he supports us moving in a different direction,” Buttigieg said.
“We’re not afraid to own our policies when it comes to raising the bar on regulation. I’ve got to think that him indicating that this is something that everybody, no matter how much you disagree on politics and presidential campaigns, can get behind — higher fines, tougher regulations on safety, Congress untying our hands on breaking rules, all the other things that go with that — that would be a nice thing for him to do,” Buttigieg continued.
But National Transporation and Safety Board chairwoman Jennifer Homendy begged to differ, telling a press conference this week that the onus is on the rail company, Norfolk Southern, not “politics” or a rule regarding certain rail car brakes loosened during Trump’s term.
“The wheel bearing failed on car number 23. So even with ECP brakes, the derailment would have occurred. Enough with the politics on this. Enough with the politics. I don’t understand why this has gotten so political,” she said. “This is a community that is suffering. This is not about politics. This is about addressing their needs, their concerns. That’s what this should be about. What I care about is caring for them. What I care about is figuring out how this happened.
“And what I care about and what the NTSB cares about is getting to what would prevent this from reoccurring,” she continued. “This is about addressing their needs and their concerns. That’s what this should be about. So I don’t care about the politics. What I care about is figuring out how this happened.”
She went on to say: “I can tell you this much: This was 100% preventable. We call things accidents. There is no accident. Every single event that we investigate is preventable. Know that the NTSB has one goal, and that is safety and ensuring that this never happens again. There are often a lot of considerations in what goes into what is preventable. There is usually far more than one thing.”