Dr. Ben Carson and I are both African-American men who hail from Detroit.
And that’s where the similarities end.
Carson, who has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to become the next Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a brilliant neurosurgeon but who has zero experience running a massive federal agency.
“Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency,” Armstrong Williams, Carson’s friend and business manager, told reporters. “The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”
Still, Carson is poised to oversee HUD with $47 billion budget and more than 8,000 employees to help millions of low-income renters and struggling homeowners, many of whom are African-Americans and other people of color.
Carson said he is qualified to take over HUD because he understands inner cities since he grew up in Detroit. Lots of black men –including me – were raised in Detroit, but it doesn’t mean they are competent to run a federal agency.
What’s more confusing is that Carson initially turned down an offer by Trump to run the Department of Health and Human Services but declined saying he didn’t have the expertise to oversee the agency.
So let me get this right: Carson said he didn’t have the chops to run HHS, but he is competent enough to run HUD because he grew up in Detroit?
And here’s the kicker: Carson ran for President of the United States so if he felt he was experienced enough to lead an entire nation, why would he say he is not qualified run one federal department?
When Carson was on the campaign trail, he spoke often about the ineptitude of government.
“We have 4.1 million federal employees, and we have 645 government agencies and sub-agencies,” Carson told reporters. “And there’s an enormous amount of inefficiency and overlap to be gotten rid of.”
Carson is a walking contradiction, a man who raises more questions than answers each time he opens his mouth.
Last week, Carson was grilled by a Senate committee during his confirmation hearing.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–MA) pressed Carson over whether he could promise that none of HUD’s billions of taxpayer-funded dollars end up in Donald Trump’s coffers.
“I can assure you that the things I can do are driven by a sense of morals and values,” Carson said, “and therefore I will absolutely not play favorites for anyone.”
“Dr. Carson, let me stop right there,” Warren said. “I’m actually trying to as a more pointed question. It’s not about your good faith. That’s not my concern.”
Carson tried to answer her question – and flubbed it.
“It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American,” he said.
“It’s for all Americans,” Carson added. “Everything we do.”
Carson speaks frequently about growing up poor in Detroit, the son of a single mother with a third-grade education. That Carson ascended to the top of his field as a neurosurgeon is impressive, but he lacks the necessary experience to oversee HUD.
A better position for Carson in the Trump administration would have been Surgeon General since Carson is a doctor and is closely familiar with health and medicine.
But as it stands, as Carson’s friend Armstrong Williams put it best: Carson’s leadership at HUD could cripple the presidency – and the millions of renters and homeowners who need effective management and innovative thinking at the top level.
What do you think?