Ben Carson: Brain surgery was easier than running HUD

"There are more complexities here than in brain surgery," HUD secretary tells NYT

In a new report from The New York Times, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson acknowledged the difficulties of his role, which he once considered quitting, within the Trump administration, stating “There are more complexities here than in brain surgery.”

From the article:

Mr. Carson, people close to him said, has been whipsawed by a job he has found puzzling and frustrating — so much so that he considered quitting during recent wrangling over the department’s budget.

“There are more complexities here than in brain surgery,” Mr. Carson said in an interview last week. “Doing this job is going to be a very intricate process.”

Mr. Carson’s efforts to steer the agency toward programs that foster self-sufficiency, one of his stated goals, have been undermined by staffing mistakes, his indecisiveness and a president indifferent, at best, to the department’s mission of helping the poor, according to two dozen current and former HUD and administration officials. All of this has been exacerbated by Mr. Carson’s tin ear for politics — such as the damaging disclosure that he had looked the other way when subordinates spent, at a time of savage budget cuts, $31,000 to buy him a new mahogany dining room suite for his office that included a pair of $1,000 side chairs.

The NYT article also reports that prior to accepting the job as HUD secretary, a confidant urged Carson to not accept and “preserve the reputation he had earned as a brilliant neurosurgeon and lost, in part, as a politician.”

Thrush reports that Logan Delany Jr., who served as treasurer of Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign, described HUD as a “swamp” of “corruption.”

Again, from the article:

The confidant, Logan Delany Jr., who was the treasurer of Mr. Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign, described HUD as a “swamp” of “corruption.” He predicted in an email that Mr. Carson’s “lack of a background in housing” would make him prey to the department’s career staff and political appointees, as well as predatory lobbyists.

To drive home the point, Mr. Delany appended a link to an obituary of Samuel R. Pierce Jr., the Reagan-era HUD secretary whose reputation as a trailblazing black corporate lawyer was tarnished by accusations that he steered contracts to Republican cronies.

Carson and the agency have recently faced a series of controversies, including allegations from a HUD employee who said she was demoted for pushing back on excessive spending for new furniture for the agency. This is in addition to an existing HUD inspector general’s investigation into the involvement of Carson’s son, Ben Jr., in the agency's Baltimore listening tour.

Of the allegations against his family, Carson told the NYT: 

“I don’t have any problem with ethics,” Mr. Carson said. “Here is a rather unique situation, Ben is somebody who is integrally important to me, and wants to help. I’m not going to just say no because it looks this way or that way.”

He added, “We are ethically pure.”

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