As with everything in Team Trump, it’s a little bit of both.
Trump: So, Ben, you’re a doctor, right? Not as good as my doctor, since you haven’t looked at me, but a doctor.
Carson: (long pause) Yes
Trump: Great! You wanna run HHS? I think the first H is health, and you’re a doctor. That’s good enough. It’s great enough.
Carson: (longer pause) No, I don’t think I know how to run a government agency.
Trump: But you wanted to be President? And you don’t know how to run a government?
Carson: (45 minute pause)(smiles) Well, it worked for you, didn’t it?
(Both men laugh uproariously)
Trump: Ben, how about HUD?
So, it is apparently official that Team Trump offered the HUD secretary position to Ben Carson, a man who didn’t feel that he could serve as the head of Health and Human Services since he had never run a government agency, and didn’t want to “cripple the Presidency“. That was probably fair, since he hadn’t ever run a government agency, and showed a Trumpian desire not to learn anything about it. It was clear that he was offered the role because 1) he was a loyal, if sometimes weird, surrogate, and 2) doctor = health!
But now, HUD? That makes zero sense. At least with HHS there was some internal logic, relatively speaking. And it gave them some cover to then offer it to Tom Price, who wants to dismantle Obamacare by hook and crook and who has some…interesting ideas. Hey, they can say: don’t think we were just offering positions to right-wing white male cranks. It’s just that Carson turned us down!
But HUD might actually make some sense. Since the idea was first floated a few weeks ago, internet wags made the joke that Trump heard the U stood for “urban”, and picked his only black friend. Carson’s gotta know urban stuff, right? That’s the incompetence side.
It’s probably more insidious that than. My good buddy Brett Max Kaufman reminded me that Trump first cut his teeth in politics battling the federal government for discrimination lawsuits. It’s the first time he really got in the paper, made a name for himself. The Trump family was sued for barring housing to minorities, and settled in one of the largest settlements for discriminatory renting practices in history.
(Trump likes to brag that there was “no admission of guilt”, as if that’s not what every settlement is.)
So then, why not get a little bit of revenge? Why not put someone who doesn’t know the first thing about HUD in charge of federal housing policies? Someone who we already know has pretty interesting ideas about liberalism and satanism? And more to the point, why not put the black guy who is beloved on the right for scolding the black community, and Obama, in charge of it?
There’s little doubt that the rightwing axis around Trump, specifically Reince Priebus (as an extension of Paul Ryan and, ideologically, Scott Walker) would love to dismantle HUD. They’d love to roll back its efforts to make for fairer housing, and would love to be able to scale back the government’s role in urban development. With Carson, they have someone who is a) willing to do that, b) incompetent enough at the role that he can be easily manipulated, and c) black, so: not racist!
Just remember that “Housing” and “Urban Development” both are racial codewords, tied into (for the right) “redistribution”, which itself is a tangled racial code in the Lee Atwater sense (It’s barely even a codeword, since HUD was set up largely to counteract Trumpian malfeasance). Being able to tear it down, through Trump, who himself probably is no fan of HUD for his own vain reasons, is a perfect encapsulation of the terror inherent in this administration.