With only a handful of cabinet nominations made so far, Donald Trump has already made very clear that he simply does not care about silly ideas like competence and expertise. As Steve Benen points out, one need only look at the job offer extended to Ben Carson to support that claim.
Just last week, retired neurosurgeon and failed presidential candidate Ben Carson said something unexpected: he didn’t want to be a member of Donald Trump’s presidential cabinet. Carson told the Washington Post he preferred to “work from the outside and not from the inside,” and not be pigeonholed into one particular area.”
Carson added, “Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water, quite frankly.” Armstrong Williams, a leading Carson confidant, told NBC’s Pete Williams that Carson made clear to Trump that the retired physician doesn’t have the experience to run a federal bureaucracy.
And yet, there was the president-elect yesterday, announcing on Twitter that he’s “seriously considering” Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)…
In the Fox interview, Carson reflected on his qualifications for the position. “I know that I grew up in the inner city,” he said. “And have spent a lot of time there. And have dealt with a lot of patients from that area.”
Even by 2016 standards, this is very hard to take seriously.
Carson has literally no background in housing policy, urban development, or running a large organization. In fact, as recently as last week, he said he didn’t even want to try. The fact that Carson would even consider accepting a job for which he’s completely unqualified is bizarre.
But while Carson’s possible role in a presidential cabinet is problematic, the fact that Trump would extend such an offer speaks volumes about his approach to his presidential responsibilities.Timothy B. Lee explained last week, “After eight years of the hyper-technocratic Obama presidency, we’re about to get an administration where expertise is taken a lot less seriously, while personal loyalty to Donald Trump will be seen as much more important.”
Not necessarily personal loyalty. The fact that he is considering Mitt Romney for secretary of state and has nominated Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador, both fierce critics of him throughout the election, shows that to be too limiting. I don’t know who what the explanation is for the fact that he is picking both critics and loyalists, but I do know that those examples support the claim that he doesn’t care about expertise at all. Nikki Haley has absolutely no qualifications to be the UN Ambassador. She has no background at all in foreign policy or diplomacy.
He’s also nominated Betsy Devos to lead the Department of Education, a woman who has been an enemy of public schools and has no background in education at all other than spending vast amounts of her family’s money to support vouchers and charter schools. And you can be damn sure that whoever he picks to head the EPA will be an anti-environmentalist. As I keep saying, it’s like hiring an arsonist to be fire chief. It’s so bad that I would actually feel better if Romney is put in pretty much any position. At least there would be one adult in the room.
All of this is part of that deeper vein of anti-intellectualism and misology that has always animated our politics. Trump is the personal embodiment of those things himself, so it’s certainly no surprise that he’s appointing people who represent it as well.