In the latest episode of The Apprentice: Cabinet Edition, President-elect Donald J. Trump has finally picked a cabinet member who may actually know less about how the government works than Trump himself. This morning, the Trump team announced that the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is going to be retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson. You remember Carson, who Trump cruelly derided during the GOP primaries, telling a crowd in Iowa that Americans would have to be “stupid . . . to believe this crap,” referring to Carson’s vague story from childhood about how he “tried to” stab a friend when he was a teen. Trump also compared Carson’s supposed anger issues, which Carson says he has dealt with, to the problems of a child molester. Trump being Trump, he backed off those criticisms as soon as Carson endorsed him during the primaries.
At least Trump’s other cabinet picks, frightening though they are, have some familiarity with the subject matter of their new jobs. Carson has no experience in any level of government. He has never held office. He is a retired physician. He has never run, or even been involved with, a bureaucracy, much less a gigantic one like HUD with an annual budget of $47 billion and over 8,000 employees. He has never worked in housing. He is, in short, as unqualified to be HUD secretary as Trump is to be POTUS.
Carson has expressed political views that are antithetical to HUD’s core mission, which is to ensure that Americans with low incomes or modest means have access to affordable housing. Carson has stated that federal programs seeking to help the less fortunate are “social engineering” experiments that serve to “foster dependency.” Carson is a fringe right-winger who, despite his hard childhood in inner-city Detroit, believes that the poor, including poor blacks, should take responsibility for themselves and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Carson is lucky he escaped and had a lucrative career as a surgeon, but he is wrong to think his own example means all poor inner-city kids have the same opportunities. They don’t.
Another big problem with Dr. Carson, other than his total lack of experience and his Tea Party view towards the poor, is that the man has a child-like ignorance of the world that many have described as, well, crazy. Consider a few examples. Carson, a trained neurosurgeon, credits his recovery from prostate cancer to taking glyconutrients, a sham remedy whose therapeutic effects exist only in the minds of its crooked Internet marketers. As Vanity Fair put it:
“It doesn’t really do anything except increase flatulence,” Dr. Hudson Freeze from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute told ABC.
Feel free to insert your own fart joke here. Also, Carson thinks that the belief that church and state should remain separate is caused by schizophrenia. He has stated that gravity isn’t really real. And in a remarkable piece of incoherence, Carson has remarked that President Obama should stop commiserating with the families of past mass shootings and instead start commiserating with the families of future shooting victims, as though the Secret Service provides POTUS with a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor. (If you don’t get that last reference, you may be too young to be reading this).
Let us review. Trump’s selection to lead HUD knows nothing about housing or bureaucracies or the government in general; is politically opposed to the statutes that HUD is supposed to administer; and makes public statements that lead many during the primary season to speculate that the man in not just unhinged, but afflicted with a genuine mental illness. And don’t forget that Trump ridiculed him mercilessly during the primaries, until Carson endorsed him.