President-elect Donald Trump will nominate "tough" former Republican primary rival Ben Carson as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the transition team announced Monday.A statement described Carson as a "distinguished national leader who overcame his troubled youth in the inner city of Detroit to become a renowned neurosurgeon."
Donald Trump has made all kinds of dubious cabinet selections. This is probably the most ridiculous.
The news does not come as a surprise, since Trump and Carson signaled their plans two weeks ago, but that doesn't make the announcement any less outrageous. It's difficult to even know where to start.1. Carson is spectacularly unqualified. Carson has literally no background in housing policy, urban development, or running a large organization. In fact, as recently as a few weeks ago, Carson said he didn't even want to try. By his own admission, Carson believes his qualifications are rooted in the fact that he lived in an inner city as a child. (In related news, I've driven on a variety of highways and can't imagine why I wasn't considered for the Secretary of Transportation.)It's part of a broader push on the part of the Trump/Pence team to reject the importance of expertise and competence among policymakers. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, the president-elect has no governing experience; his White House chief of staff has no governing experience; his chief strategist has no governing experience; and now much of Trump's cabinet will be led by officials with no relevant knowledge of their subject matter, no background in public service, or both.2. HUD deserves a real cabinet secretary. I realize that Secretary of Housing and Urban Development isn't as high-profile as cabinet slots such as Attorney General or Secretary of State, but HUD matters -- and it should be led by someone with a passing familiarity with the issues he'll oversee.As FiveThirtyEight recently explained, "[I]n terms of its impact on Americans' lives, HUD is far from second-tier. It has a budget of nearly $50 billion and employs over 8,000 workers. Its programs have a major impact on poverty, home ownership and affordability. Its data collection and enforcement roles are key for fighting discrimination and segregation."3. Carson's HUD plans are misguided. As Alec MacGillis noted this morning, Americans will soon have an Education Secretary of Education who opposes public schools, an Attorney General who opposes the Voting Rights Act, and a HUD secretary who's hostile towards the Fair Housing Act.4. Trump saw Carson as "pathological." A year ago, when Carson looked like a competitive presidential contender, Trump told an Iowa audience Carson had a violent and "pathological" temper, which Trump compared to a "disease" like child molestation. Now Trump wants him as a cabinet secretary?5. Carson has truly bizarre beliefs about reality. During his ill-fated campaign for the White House, we got to know Carson a bit, and we learned the Republican has bizarre policy recommendations, ridiculous theories about history and science, and no meaningful understanding of current events, both in terms of domestic and foreign policy.Carson also exaggerated many elements of his personal background, and during his party's national convention, thought it'd be a good idea to tie the Democratic ticket to "Lucifer."There's a school of thought, which I'm generally sympathetic towards, that says a president should be allowed to choose his or her own team, and the Senate should only reject cabinet selections in rare and extreme cases.But when a nominee concedes he's not qualified to run a cabinet agency, his understanding of basic facts is tenuous, and his familiarity with the agency's work is effectively nonexistent, perhaps the Senate has a responsibility to ask the White House to consider someone better suited for the position?