Not that any of President-elect Donald Trumps cabinet appointments have been conventional or normal so far, but here's one that was hard to see coming. Just one week after retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson reportedly pulled his name out of the cabinet conversation, acknowledging he was unprepared due to having no government experience (nice presidential campaign, guy), he's apparently done a full turn. Indeed, it's now reported that Carson will accept Trump's appointment to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. So, what does Carson want to do as HUD chief? Update: On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Carson had accepted the position. Later Wednesday, Carson said the paper had misquoted his spokesperson, and that Carson had not made a decision.
If you followed the famed doctor's presidential campaign, you know pretty well that policy proposals were not his strongest suit. To the contrary, Carson ran largely on the strength of his personal story, his Christian faith, and as a soft-spoken, friendly alternative to the noise and infighting of major party politics. It was a blend of qualities that vaulted him into relative fame following his appearance at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, when he chastised President Obama over the course of an awkward half hour.
In short, concrete, in-depth policy analysis has never been Carson's draw, so it's hard to know exactly what approach he'll take to running HUD. That said, he did give the faintest hint of an answer to Fox News' Neil Cavuto in an appearance this week.
Here's what Carson answered when Cavuto asked him what he knows about being in charge of housing and urban development. This is more or less the sum total of insight Carson's publicly given about his vision for the job so far, although obviously, you'd expect him to expound at least a bit more in the months to come.
I know that I grew up in the inner city, and have spent a lot of time there, and have dealt with a lot of patients from that area, and recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities. And we have to get beyond the promises and start really doing something. The amount of corruption and graft, shell games that are played, we need to get rid of all that stuff and we need to start operating things in an efficient and effective way.
When a politician or official is asked to dig into the weeds of how they plan to improve the country, the answer "eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse" is a well-worn cliche. That's pretty close to what Carson articulated when Cavuto put it the question to him, though he did also specifically mention "shell games that are played" ― what precisely he's referring to, however, is yet unclear.
One thing's for sure, though, which is that America (and its urban communities more specifically) will get a chance to see what Carson has in mind. Assuming he's confirmed, that is ― the position of HUD secretary must be confirmed by the Senate, where the GOP currently holds a thin majority.