California's Republican congressperson Doug LaMalfa, is a climate change denier. This is a dangerous stance for the representative from far Northern California, which is regularly on fire due to sustained and prolonged drought conditions in the west. Regardless of the giant book of evidence to the contrary, LaMalfa felt he had some point to prove about climate change being no more drastic than the usual changing of the seasons, and so he interrupted Sec. of Transportation Pete Buttigieg with a wisecrack.
Buttigieg claimed to be unable to hear or understand the comment and repeatedly asked LaMalfa to re-embarrass himself. There is nothing like being forced to tell the same dud joke a couple of times.
As the extent of LaMalfa's understanding of the climate begins and ends with looking out of his window every morning, his intellectually undercooked climate denialism is very easily dismissed. But Buttigieg used LaMalfa's ignorance against him in a subtle yet very effective way. During a tense exchange where LaMalfa obfuscated the task at hand by blathering about percentages of carbon in the atmosphere, Buttigieg bottom-lined him by saying, "What I can tell you is that climate change is real, and we gotta do something about it," to which LaMalfa attempted to retort, "Yeah, this one's called autumn, sir."
Buttigieg responded, "I'm sorry?" This forced LaMalfa to repeat the same joke again … and then Buttigieg shook his head and said, "I'm sorry, I couldn't make out what you said, sir." And LaMalfa had to repeat his truly pathetic joke a third time. Then Buttigieg gave a light smile and dropped the hammer: "Yeah, that's the seasons changing, which, respectively, is not the same thing as the climate changing. And as somebody who is hoping to retire in the 2050s and who has kids who will be old enough to ask me as they're getting to their thirties, whether we did enough to deal with climate change or whether we just did what was convenient, I take that really seriously."