The Atlantic Politics Daily: When Pete Buttigieg Was a Consultant

“Spreadsheets,” he told our campaign reporter about his highly scrutinized time at McKinsey. Plus: Does Kamala Harris still have VP potential?

It’s Tuesday, December 10. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler announced two articles of impeachment against the president. What didn’t make the cut?

In today’s newsletter: Pete Buttigieg talks to our 2020 campaign reporter about his McKinsey stint. Plus, does Kamala Harris still have VP potential?



Pete Buttigieg, consultant candidate

Even after Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency, this is still quite a fact: One of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 is a 37-year-old whose lone political experience is serving as the mayor of America’s 306th largest city.

Not even a year after the Indiana mayor first entered the race as a long-shot whose name nobody knew how to pronounce, his name began to float to the top of the polls.

But Pete Buttigieg has actually been the subject of presidential chatter for years. (One New York Times column from 2016: “The First Gay President?”) Connecting the dots of his resume suggests someone whose long held higher political ambitions.

1. Like a disproportionate number of other politicos, Buttigieg went to Harvard, won a Rhodes. Those elite credentials have played into his reputation as an intellectual. He’s also stolen the thunder from a certain other Rhodes Scholar-turned-mayor in the race.

2. Consulting called. Buttigieg joined the consulting firm McKinsey as a 24-year-old, a stint that has led to suspicion on the party’s left flank about his seriousness when it comes to taking on corporate interests.

3. He’s one of just two veterans left in the Democratic primary; he served as tour in Afghanistan as a Navy intelligence officer. (But his journey into military service began with Pete, the a war protester.)

4. Buttigieg came out in 2015 at age 33. Jamie Kirchick writes that a President Pete would have the potential to transform the relationship between gay and straight America.

5. He served two terms as the mayor of South Bend. How did he balance his day job with the demands of a major presidential campaign? Lots and lots of remote work, amid local crises.

6. The frontrunner limelight comes with scrutiny. The same sterling resume that may have given Buttigieg a leg up in the 2020 race has also come back to bite him. After mounting questions about his time at McKinsey, he then argued that a nondisclosure agreement meant he couldn’t talk about it.

Our campaign reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere spoke with the mayor as he finally releases his client list today.

I asked him why he seemed to struggle so much last week when peppered with questions about McKinsey that he couldn’t answer without violating his NDA. And why not just violate the NDA, given in what foul odor McKinsey now is.

Read Isaac’s interview with Buttigieg.

—Saahil Desai


(Luis Torres / AFP / Getty)

For the final month of 2019, our photo editor Alan Taylor reviews some of the major news events and moments of 2019. He also looks for images of joy amid difficult moments.

In this photograph, American and Mexican families play on seesaws installed through the barrier along the Mexican border with the U.S. in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in July

See more photographs here.



2. “By yelling falsehoods loudly enough, they hope to exhaust anyone with the ambition to determine the truth of the matter.”

An investigation was warranted; some surveillance methods were highly problematic.

Those were roughly the conclusions of Monday’s comprehensive report from the Department of Justice inspector general’s probe into how the Mueller investigation came about (yes, we’re still on this topic).

The president and his supporters, though, still aren’t buying it, and maybe never will, Adam Serwer argues:

The numbness to every new Trump revelation, no matter how shocking, is in part a product of the president’s success in fatiguing anyone who might be interested in what the facts are.

2. “And suddenly, the Trump administration spoke out on human rights.”

A full picture of the violence inflicted on protesters in Iran over the last month is only just emerging—and the administration has been vocal in its support of demonstrators.

That’s all well and good, Kathy Gilsinan writes, but condemnation of the Iranian government’s crackdown is also currently a convenient cudgel to push for something else.

More: There are still American prisoners languishing in Iranian jails. They receive little attention. Our national security team explores the unfortunate collision of forces that will determine the fates of these people.

3. “I was among the majority who believed that the anti-war leftists of 2001 were wrong in their dire warnings of quagmire.”

Our staff writer Conor Friedersdorf reckons with his own support of the war in Afghanistan, in light of newly released documents that point to a pattern of officials misleading the public about the war, a pattern spanning the George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump administrations.



Does Kamala Harris still have vice-presidential potential?

Isaac also has the definitive post-mortem on her campaign’s dramatic tumble. The question now:

But the way her candidacy ended—with leaking, backbiting, and blame-slinging by her staff—demonstrated such dysfunction that the chatter over the past week among both rival campaigns and some of her own supporters has been about whether the senator from California has made herself too radioactive for another candidate to bring her on board as a running mate.

Read the rest of the story.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, with help from Shan Wang. You can reply directly to this newsletter with questions or comments, or send a note to

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