President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an unconventional choice that underscores Trump’s willingness to forgo traditional policy expertise in some Cabinet positions to surround himself with allies.
Carson — who ran against Trump in the wide field of Republican presidential primary candidates and has never held political office — is the president-elect’s highest profile African American supporter and confidant. A conservative political celebrity, the 65-year-old Carson recently cast doubt on his suitability for a Cabinet role, saying he would be “like a fish out of water” as a federal bureaucrat.
“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 is quoted as saying in a statement released by his transition team Monday.
A review of some of Carson’s political commentary on housing policy reveals his views to be at odds with some of the anti-segregation policies championed by minority groups, including the NAACP. On at least one occasion, he criticized efforts by the Obama administration to use its regulatory powers to improve racial integration in housing.
If confirmed by the Senate, Carson will be enlisted to serve as Trump’s unofficial envoy to African Americans and to lead the charge to reform what Trump has described as America’s blighted and dangerous inner cities, a dystopian, racially charged image criticized as frequently at odds with reality. He will also lead Trump’s efforts in an arena where Trump and members of his family have been accused of flouting the law in their own business ventures.
Trump is also expected on Monday to formally name retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis as his defense secretary. Trump shared his intentions Thursday during a raucous “thank you” rally in Cincinnati.
Carson’s lack of experience in the housing sphere raised concerns among advocates for vulnerable Americans.
“With many qualified Republicans to choose from with deep knowledge of, and commitment to, affordable housing solutions for the poorest families, and with the housing crisis reaching new heights across the country, Dr. Carson’s nomination to serve as HUD Secretary is surprising and concerning,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement.
Trump’s HUD pick follows his decision to name South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), the daughter of Indian immigrants, as ambassador to the United Nations and former labor secretary Elaine L. Chao as his choice for transportation secretary. Chao in 2001 became the first Asian American woman to be named to a Cabinet post and went on to head the Labor Department under George W. Bush for eight years. These two appointments, along with Carson’s and Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos as his choice for education secretary, confirm that the president-elect is seeking a measure of racial and gender diversity in his emerging administration.
SOURCE: Elise Viebeck and Karoun Demirjian
The Washington Post