‘Deplorables,’ seriously? Column on Ohio train disaster went way off the rails | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio on Feb. 4.
Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio on Feb. 4. [ DUSTIN FRANZ/AFP | Getty Images North America ]
Published Feb. 25, 2023

Editor’s note: In Thursday’s e-newspaper, the Times ran a column by the Boston Herald’s Joe Battenfeld in which he criticized President Joe Biden and other Democrats for ignoring at their own political peril the “disenfranchised” and “forgotten” residents of East Palestine, Ohio. The column touched a nerve with many letter writers. Here’s a sample:

Weak attempt to anger white voters

Biden ignores ‘Deplorables’ in East Palestine at his own risk | Feb. 23

Columnist Joe Battenfeld sure tries hard to lay the blame on President Joe Biden and all Democrats for the rail disaster in East Palestine, Ohio. It seems as if the writer is using the disaster to emphasize the Republican talking point that Democrats don’t care enough about the “disenfranchised” of East Palestine. Battenfeld states the “Deplorables” won’t forget while he waxes optimistically about upcoming Democrat losses in 2024.

Biden, of course, is the primary target of the writer’s vitriol since he was, of all places, in Kyiv, Ukraine. The writer believes Biden, rather than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would do more in person rather than visiting war zones, where the U.S. is attempting to save eastern Europe. Interesting that it was never mentioned that the disaster was likely the fault of the train operator, Norfolk Southern, and past Republican deregulation of rail safety. Meanwhile, the EPA is forcing Norfolk Southern to clean up the mess it caused. Oversight of the clean up is the work of agencies, not individual politicians. And it certainly shouldn’t be used as a weak attempt to anger rural white voters, as the writer attempts.

William Falcone, Brandon

Who’s at fault?

Biden ignores ‘Deplorables’ in East Palestine at his own risk | Feb. 23

Those who bemoan the Tampa Bay Times for its liberal leaning can take a rest. Joe Battenfeld’s column last week, while not the most partisan example of Republican trashing ever, is certainly in the running. Balanced? My goodness no! Let’s blame this industrial fiasco on the sitting president while totally ignoring the devious role of the former president’s administration. This tragedy happened because the former Republican administration did everything possible to allow it to happen. President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg were left with the responsibility to clean up their mess.

Jon Crawfurd, Gulfport

Right wing muck

Biden ignores ‘Deplorables’ in East Palestine at his own risk | Feb. 23

It’s bad enough that the Tampa Bay Times subjects its readers to frequent columns by Peggy Noonan of the ultra-conservative Wall Street Journal but adding a column by Joe Battenfeld with the right of center Boston Herald is a bridge too far. If we wanted to read their slanted opinions, we would subscribe to the newspaper they work for.

David Burg, Tampa

“Deplorables,” seriously?

Biden ignores “Deplorables” in East Palestine at his own risk. | Feb. 23

Joe Battenfield’s ugly diatribe reaches a new nadir and one can only guess the motivations of printing such tripe. To my knowledge, President Joe Biden is not and was not an employee of the railroad company responsible for this disaster. Secondly, East Palestine is in a state with a Republican governor, in a county run by Republicans and in a town with Republican leadership. In addition, federal help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Transportation Safety Board were on the scene within hours of the occurrence. So, Mr. Battenfeld, who is the “Deplorable” to whom you refer? It was not the Biden Administration that declared “the air and water are fine” but rather the Republican state and local authorities.

Richard A Miller, Oldsmar

Do some homework

Biden ignores ‘Deplorables’ in East Palestine at his own risk | Feb. 23

The column by Joe Battenfield attacks President Joe Biden for some hysterically imagined “badness” toward East Palestine’s “deplorables,” a term Biden hasn’t used to describe the residents in that town, nor would he. On Friday, we got a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board citing an overheated train wheel bearing as the cause of the disaster. It eventually exceeded the outside air temperature by 253 degrees. It was only after the third heat warning that the train was brought to a stop, but by then it was too late. The NTSB identified the cause a mere three weeks after the wreck. That seems like lightning speed to me.

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Those most damaged by this disaster routinely, insistently vote for the same politicians who refuse to regulate the railroad adequately, and who are aggressively trying to push the blame to President Biden.

Steve Douglas, St. Petersburg