Car­son choice to run HUD draws jeers

Trump picks short on vi­tal ex­pe­ri­ence

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

For­get “Team of Ri­vals.” Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump is in­stead as­sem­bling what crit­ics are call­ing a team of novices — gov­ern­ment out­siders or politi­cians who have lit­tle ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence at the helm of the kinds of mas­sive fed­eral agen­cies they’ll be run­ning.

Mr. Trump’s pick of re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon Ben Car­son to be sec­re­tary of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment is the lat­est to ran­kle Democrats, who said the doc­tor’s skill with a scalpel doesn’t trans­late into man­ag­ing an 8,300-per­son depart­ment that over­sees fair lend­ing, sub­si­dized hous­ing and neigh­bor­hood re­vi­tal­iza­tion.

“Car­son has pre­vi­ously taken him­self out of the run­ning for a Cab­i­net po­si­tion due to his lack of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. He has no pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence in ei­ther gov­ern­ment or hous­ing pol­icy. And his cam­paign web­site when he ran for pres­i­dent didn’t even men­tion HUD,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, Ore­gon Demo­crat, tick­ing off the rea­sons the doc­tor isn’t the right pre­scrip­tion for the depart­ment.

The same crit­i­cism was lodged against Rep. Tom Price, whom Mr. Trump last week said he’ll name to lead the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices — the 72,600-per­son agency that will be in charge of un­rav­el­ing Oba­macare.

“To put in charge of the na­tion’s health care sys­tem and a $1 tril­lion bud­get some­one who has never over­seen any­thing larger than a con­gres­sional com­mit­tee ought to raise eye­brows when this po­si­tion has his­tor­i­cally been re­served for an in­di­vid­ual with sig­nif­i­cant ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Mary­land, the sec­ond-rank­ing Demo­crat in the House.

But po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tists said there’s

noth­ing un­usual about pres­i­dents pick­ing those with lit­tle man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence to head big de­part­ments.

“I don’t think he’s that much out of line,” said Wil­liam Mayer, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at North­east­ern Univer­sity who’s stud­ied pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns and tran­si­tions, and who said pick­ing law­mak­ers with slim ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence but skilled in the ways of Wash­ing­ton is com­mon for pres­i­dents look­ing to stock their Cab­i­nets.

Nei­ther then-Sen. John F. Kerry nor then-Sen. Hil­lary Clin­ton had man­aged more than a Se­nate of­fice or pres­i­den­tial cam­paign at the time Pres­i­dent Obama picked them to be sec­re­tary of state. Like­wise, his in­te­rior, la­bor and trans­porta­tion sec­re­taries all came from Congress.

The trans­porta­tion pick, then-Rep. Ray LaHood, was prod­ded dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion process on what qual­i­fied him to lead a depart­ment with more than 50,000 em­ploy­ees, and he said his time in Congress was good enough.

“While my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence does not in­clude di­rect re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for man­age­ment in large or­ga­ni­za­tions, my ser­vice in the Congress, par­tic­u­larly on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, has given me the per­spec­tive to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of sound man­age­ment and ac­count­abil­ity in the use of pub­lic funds,” Mr. LaHood told the Se­nate.

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush seemed to stack his ini­tial Cab­i­net with more ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing sev­eral gov­er­nors, high-level state of­fi­cials who’d run ma­jor agen­cies, re­tired Gen. Colin Pow­ell to be the sec­re­tary of state and Don­ald Rums­feld to lead the De­fense Depart­ment — a job he also held in the 1970s.

Mr. Mayer said Mr. Rums­feld was ev­i­dence that hav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence doesn’t al­ways work out for Cab­i­net nom­i­nee. He said those with­out ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning big op­er­a­tions may have a dif­fer­ent learn­ing curve, but they can bring other strengths.

The Trump tran­si­tion team didn’t re­spond to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment on this ar­ti­cle, but in a state­ment the pres­i­dent-elect said Mr. Car­son “has a bril­liant mind and is pas­sion­ate about strength­en­ing com­mu­ni­ties.”

“Ben shares my op­ti­mism about the fu­ture of our coun­try and is part of en­sur­ing that this is a Pres­i­dency rep­re­sent­ing all Amer­i­cans. He is a tough com­peti­tor and never gives up,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Car­son led sev­eral di­vi­sions of medicine at the Johns Hop­kins Med­i­cal In­sti­tu­tions, served on cor­po­rate boards and founded his own schol­ar­ship char­ity. But Democrats said he lacked rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence for the job at HUD.

“I have se­ri­ous con­cerns about Dr. Car­son’s lack of ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence in deal­ing with hous­ing is­sues,” said in­com­ing Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat. “Some­one who is as anti-gov­ern­ment as him is a strange fit for hous­ing sec­re­tary, to say the least.”

G. Terry Madonna, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics and Pub­lic Af­fairs at Franklin and Mar­shall Col­lege, said Mr. Trump’s picks may have less ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning big op­er­a­tions, but that shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing to any­one who watched his cam­paign.

“That’s the ma­jor ar­gu­ment used by Trump: that he would not only change the poli­cies of the na­tion, but drain the swamp and put in a fed­eral gov­ern­ment hir­ing freeze, among many other prom­ises,” Mr. Madonna said.

The lack-of-ex­pe­ri­ence cri­tique is just the lat­est to be aimed at the Trump tran­si­tion. Early in the process, he faced barbs over a lack of di­ver­sity in his meet­ings and his early picks.

He’s coun­tered with a lineup that, among the first Cab­i­net 10 picks, in­cludes three women — two of them Asian-Amer­i­cans — and now Mr. Car­son, who is black.

Mr. Trump’s team also says that it’s ahead of sched­ule in nam­ing nom­i­nees com­pared to Mr. Obama.

Mr. Mayer said the one area where Mr. Trump may want to make head­way is in pick­ing nom­i­nees who weren’t back­ers of his cam­paign.

“He seems to have ap­pointed a lot of long­time loy­al­ists so far. I think he would be well ad­vised to wi­den the scope a lit­tle bit and to bring in some peo­ple who were not big sup­port­ers of his,” Mr. Mayer said. “I think Rom­ney would be a very good ex­am­ple.”

For­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney was a vo­cal Trump critic dur­ing the cam­paign, but has made two post-elec­tion vis­its with the pres­i­den­t­elect, where he’s au­di­tioned to be sec­re­tary of state.

Mr. Rom­ney, who served as a busi­ness­man, a gov­er­nor and head of the 2002 Win­ter Olympics, would bring more ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence than ei­ther Mr. Kerry or Mrs. Clin­ton had when they took the State Depart­ment job.

Among the ex­pe­ri­enced hands Mr. Trump has al­ready tapped is Elaine L. Chao, a Cab­i­net sec­re­tary in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, whom the pres­i­dent-elect named to be his La­bor Depart­ment sec­re­tary.

And Mr. Trump has asked re­tired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis, who was the chief of Cen­tral Com­mand from 2010 through 2013, to lead the De­fense Depart­ment.

Democrats have praised the re­tired gen­eral, but some have ex­pressed reser­va­tions that he is only re­cently de­parted from the mil­i­tary, say­ing it could tram­ple on the prin­ci­ple of civil­ian con­trol of the armed forces.

A fed­eral law re­quires a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer to have been re­tired at least seven years be­fore tak­ing the De­fense post, and Congress will have to waive that law for the gen­eral to serve.


De­spite no rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence, Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump nom­i­nated Ben Car­son to lead the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment.

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