One of the steady drumbeats of Donald Trump’s campaign was a reference to America’s "inner cities" as violent wastelands with crime on every corner. ("What do you have to lose?," he famously asked urban blacks and Hispanics.)
Well, today, Trump made his first move in addressing his perception of the issue. The President-elect has nominated his Republican primary season rival Ben Carson—a former neurosurgeon, successful author of spiritually minded books, and an African-American—for the cabinet position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. If confirmed, Dr. Carson would be one of our highest ranking domestic policy officials, with oversight of issues like safety, affordable housing, and discrimination in the housing market.
He also would be the country’s highest ranking black person and, as such, a sort of conduit and liaison between the African-American community and the White House.
Carson has some experience with "inner cities"—he was raised in an impoverished section of Detroit, where he took Mr. Trump for a tour shortly after endorsing the President-elect. Trump’s official statement praised Carson’s "brilliant mind" and his "passion" for strengthening an urban community "economic revival," but stopped short of highlighting any substantial experience Carson had with government oversight and regulation. This is because, as Dr. Carson’s close friends have attested, he has none.
In fact, just weeks ago Carson publicly doubted his fitness for a federal appointment, saying he'd be a "fish out of water" in such a capacity. But Carson now feels ready, pointing to his experience of being raised in a blighted community as his primary preparation, along with telling Fox News that he's "dealt with a lot of patients from that area" for years.
The critics are ready: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has called him "disturbingly unqualified" while Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said he is a "strange fit." While Carson's intellect is beyond question—holding degrees from Yale and Michigan before heading up Johns Hopkins' surgical operations—many argue he'd be a more fitting choice for Surgeon General than HUD.
The Democrats don't have enough votes to veto the choice, but the hearings will likely be intense nonetheless—especially since the Department of HUD has a $47 billion budget at its disposal.
In any event, this selection further illustrates Trump's comfort with appointing people with little government experience in the interest of surrounding himself with loyalists. The choice also further diversifies an administration which started out as purely white male and recently has fleshed out to include women and Asian-Americans.
Next up for the Trump Administration Watch: All eyes on Secretary of State. For a recap of Trump's other appointments to date, check out our last Trump Administration Watch.