By his own admission, Dr. Ben Carson is not qualified to run a federal agency. He has no experience in housing policy. But he is nonetheless Donald Trump's nominee to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In a statement this morning, President-elect Donald Trump said: "I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities."
Trump first tweeted in late November that he was nominating the retired neurosurgeon and former Republican presidential candidate to lead HUD. That announcement came exactly one week after Carson’s business manager and close friend Armstrong Williams told The Hill that he was not interested in serving as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, because “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency.”
Now, after dithering about it, Carson has accepted the nomination to HUD, despite his lack of qualifications. He will "oversee an agency with a $47 billion budget, bringing to the job a philosophical opposition to government programs that encourage what he calls 'dependency' and engage in 'social engineering.' He has no expertise in housing policy."
Carson's only cited qualification, such as it is, is having grown up in an inner city: "In a recent television interview, Mr. Carson said that he was prepared to lead the agency because he grew up 'in the inner city' and because as a physician in Baltimore he has 'dealt with a lot of patients from that area.'”
For the record, HUD's purview entails significantly more than urban housing, as Ana Marie Cox notes.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has issued a strong statement objecting to Carson's lack of qualifications, calling him a "disconcerting and disturbingly unqualified choice."
Our country deserves a HUD Secretary with the relevant experience. Dr. Carson is a disturbingly unqualified choice. https://t.co/BvlXlJw0xq pic.twitter.com/gCYaiIfmj3
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) December 5, 2016
But no expertise is required by Trump — who, after all, has no qualifications himself. He has never served a day in public office in preparation for the presidency, and has so little knowledge of the job that he was surprised he has to staff the White House.
What is telling about this selection is that it is clearly Trump's pick — unlike much of the Cabinet, which otherwise has Mike Pence's fingerprints all over it. That Pence, and whichever other Trump advisors are wielding influence, evidently stepped back and "gave" this one to Trump suggests what a low priority HUD is to the powerbrokers in the incoming administration.
Which is worrying, because, as Cox observes: "HUD is embedded in the fabric of every American’s life."