A little over a year ago, a real estate mogul and a retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon with zero combined years of experience in office were sitting neck-and-neck atop Republican primary polls. Today, one of those men, Donald Trump, is starting to set up shop in the Oval Office and has picked the other, Ben Carson, to lead our nation’s housing department.
Trump announced today that he had officially offered Carson the job as the next secretary of housing and urban development. Even in the year when anything was politically possible for a famous person who had never held office, many were surprised to see Carson picked for that position for several reasons.
Most relevantly, Carson has no experience working in urban housing policy. He became famous for tales of his surgical prowess right here in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and had his fame bolstered by the rags-to-riches story of his rough upbringing in Detroit. But other than publicly blaming leaders for the plight of poverty in American cities since 2013, Carson has made few waves recently for his ideas on urban development and housing.
Carson did attempt to address this point late last month when asked by FOX News show host Neil Cavuto about what made qualified for the job. Simply put, Carson told Cavuto he’s has lived in the inner city before and has known patients who did, too.
Carson also sold himself short for this job early on, too. When reports arose that he might be up for a White House job, Carson’s spokesman told The Hill, “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.” Carson was quick to refute that notion, writing on Facebook that the media had taken his spokesman’s words out of context. By Thanksgiving, Carson and Trump had confirmed that the offer was on the table.
For more than a week, America heard nothing more about the matter. But today, Trump kicked off the week by announcing Carson’s appointment. The president-elect, for his part, seems excited. “Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities,” he said in a statement. “We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities.”
Carson’s past talking points on federal housing programs have indicated he thinks they foster overdependence on the government in urban communities, which is actually a likely reason why Trump has offered him the job.
Our incoming president seems to have gotten over his fears about Carson’s purported “pathological temper” as a child. Let’s just hope he doesn’t spend too much time mocking Carson’s other stories about his upbringing while the pair are discussing affordable housing policy in American cities.