For a time, Dr. Ben Carson was the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
His quiet tone and gentle, nice-guy manner made it seem unlikely he could go toe-to-toe with the ruthless Clinton machine in a general election.
Ultimately, the nice guy didn’t finish last, but pretty close to it in Iowa and New Hampshire. On reflection, given the awful year Clinton had, Carson might well have won the general election. Now, it appears likely he’ll have to settle for being Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Though not the most glamorous of cabinet posts, HUD seems a suitable fit for Carson, who grew up in poverty in Detroit and has a direct understanding about the people getting aid from the agency. Carson, though gaffe prone as a campaigner, is undoubtedly brilliant. The man made a living operating on babies’ brains. He was legendary in his profession. Still, he was cast by lesser men as some sort of buffoon, because of his lack of political adroitness. Among those was President-elect Donald Trump, who once called him an “okay doctor.”
The knives are out on the left. It’s rare that the HUD nomination causes much of an uproar on Capitol Hill, but this could be a rowdy confirmation hearing.
Trump will likely have most of his nominees confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. But Democrats will raise as much heck possible for as many nominees as possible.
What might be characterized as a gaffe was using the word “communist” in reference to a HUD regulation. It’s worth noting he didn’t call the entire agency communist, nor did he say the concept of fair housing was communist. He spoke more than once specifically of an Obama administration rule, known as “affirmatively furthering fair housing,” a rule that would require affordable housing units be built in affluent neighborhoods.
Speaking to an Iowa radio station, Carson said, “This is what you see in communist countries where they have so many regulations encircling every aspect of your life that if you don’t agree with them, all they have to do is pull the noose.”
The Obama rule was aimed at strengthening the 1968 Fair Housing Act, by withholding funding from cities that the administration judges not to be furthering the law. Carson wrote that these rules repeated past federal policies that “contributed to blighted inner cities in which poverty and school segregation became even more concentrated.”
“These government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse,” Carson wrote in a Washington Times op-ed. “There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer might see these comments as a means to stop the nomination. How can you run a federal agency you’ve referred to as “communist” and “socialist?”
Since when has opposing the prevailing view been a disqualifier? Carson might be the disrupter that HUD needs to effectively carry out its mission in a way it hasn’t before.
Carson was mentioned as a potential surgeon general, a show-job that would be somewhat beneath his talents. He was also considered for secretary of Health and Human Services, certainly a suitable job, but one that would primarily involve the administrative dismantling of the Affordable Care Act.
Though lower profile, HUD secretary is a post where Carson will be able to bring real reforms in tackling real problems.
Fred Lucas is a columnist for Political Storm and the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. He is the author of “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections” (Stairway Press, 2016).
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