Pete Buttigieg, who is enjoying a surge in the polls for no apparent reason, is the subject of a New Yorker profiling documenting Buttigieg’s time as a Rhodes Scholar. In 2005, the then-23-year-old Harvard graduate’s greatness reportedly stood out, so much so that one of his fellow Rhodes recipients recalled thinking, “Holy shit, I’m out of my depth,” upon seeing him participate in a political debate.
But more than anything, this curated collection of Buttigieg’s time at Oxford makes Mayor Pete come across like that guy in college who was completely harmless but still managed to get on your nerves by being simultaneously pretentious and deeply corny.
We have Buttigieg, the whiskey curator:
Marissa Doran, a lawyer in New York, said Buttigieg was “a good egg” who, when he wasn’t leading a politics-themed discussion group, liked to “hole up and play Risk or Settlers of Catan.” At Pembroke, one of Oxford’s residential colleges, Buttigieg oversaw the common-room bar. “He curated this great collection of whiskey from around the world,” Wilkinson said. “When students took trips, he’d get them to bring something back for his ‘whiskey library.’ ”
We have Buttigieg, the Joyce obsessive who made his shared apartment smell like piss that one time:
Such was Buttigieg’s ardor for James Joyce and “Ulysses,” Jeremy Farris, his old Oxford flatmate, said, that he once “came back from the market with a kidney that he proceeded to fry, because that’s what Leopold Bloom most enjoyed.” Farris added, “Our kitchen, for a few days, had the ‘fine tang of faintly scented urine.’ ”
We have Buttigieg, the man who learned Norwegian while taking a shit:
“There was a book on the shared toilet,” Farris, who is now the general counsel at New Mexico’s Department of Finance & Administration, said, “called ‘Teach Yourself Norwegian.’ ” One day, as the flatmates were walking along the Thames, a young man wearing a soldier’s coat with a Norwegian flag appeared. “Peter stopped him,” Farris said, “and they had a conversation while we politely waited. I realized that Peter had taught himself Norwegian on the toilet.”
And Buttigieg, who skipped the library at the end of his Rhodes tenure and instead hopped on a cargo ship for some peace and quiet instead:
When it came time to conclude his studies, Buttigieg chose what Farris calls his “North Sea-cargo-ship exam preparation.” Wilkinson said, “It’s one of those mythic Oxford tales that’s actually true. Pete boarded a cargo ship—shipping goods across the ocean—to isolate himself before the multiple days of tests. I just remember thinking, like, What? Who does that?” Soon after, Buttigieg earned a “first,” the highest grade. Then it was on to a job at McKinsey.
We get it: He’s smart and quirky!
Buttigieg is probably very intelligent, but as Jay Caspian Kang wrote recently in the New York Times, he mostly seems to function on the political stage as a flattering mirror for a certain kind of affluent, white liberal voter. “Imagining yourself in a book club with Pete Buttigieg becomes this election’s having a beer with George W. Bush,” Kang wrote.
Will Ulysses be the first book we read? Can we skip the kidney frying?