Amidst a slew of arbitrary, counterintuitive, corrupt, dangerous and LSD-induced cabinet nominations by President-elect Donald J. Trump, the selection of Dr. Ben Carson was the one that had me ranting and raving the most in the shower stall. Had I slipped, fallen and broken my hip, I would have called an architect.
I have spent nearly thirty years in engineering and construction, mostly of residential structures. The point is not that by virtue of my professional background I could do a much better job directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development than Ben Carson. I could. The point is that I know several hundred people who could. Like Mitt Romney, I have folders.
What exactly is Ben Carson’s major qualification to head up the federal agency responsible for a $49 billion yearly budget dedicated to affordable housing nationwide? That he has live in housing? Why did they skip over so many critical questions during the Senate confirmation hearings? For instance, what is a window? What is a door? What is a toilet? How many neurosurgeons does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two—one to screw it in and one to perform a bifrontal craniotomy.
Nominating the inept and unsuitable is an old right wing tactic intended to kill two, and sometimes as many as three birds with one hardcore reactionary stone. The first bird is meritocracy. Meritocracy threatens those with little merit—basically the entire Trump administration and its supporters. The typical Trump voter sitting on the couch flicking through dozens of cable and satellite channels imagines he is master of all that streaks fleetingly across his 55-inch flat screen. He knows how to change out a gas-fueled furnace, shoot a saber-toothed tiger, drill for oil in the frozen tundra, and reattach a severed leg because he’s definitely seen something about this stuff while waiting for the Papa John’s Pizza guy to come.
The nomination of an unqualified person to one of the highest positions in government reassures your average weekend warrior paintball enthusiast scheduled for lap-band surgery that he may be next on that short list or some other grossly dysfunctional list. For these reasons, the meritocracy bird is decapitated.
The second bird sentenced to death is modernity. Anti-intellectuals—who make up the majority of red state voters—scorn most developments of the past fifty years. These developments—supercomputers crunching big data, women outnumbering men at major universities, difficult-to-assemble IKEA furniture—undermine their status in the natural, brain-dead order of things handed down through the generations via episodes of Hee Haw and Beavis and Butt-Head. When it comes to large federal agencies, it’s better to slide someone in there with no related body of knowledge, practical experience, or relevant abilities. Then and only then can a designated new-blooded anti-bureaucrat take the proverbial “fresh look,” manage to see nothing but a bunch of entropy-driven moving parts, and subject them to a self-styled alchemy and hocus pocus.
And that’s just one wing. The other wing of the modernity bird is often a direct target of the plutocracy itself. To esteemed members of the wealthy ruling class, modernity is an, abominable entity that long ago stripped them of their vertical and horizontal monopolies, their company towns, and their right to cop a feel from the from the kitchen help. An incompetent nominee is great so long as it’s their incompetent nominee. He knows where his bread is buttered. He knows he is not there to reinvent the wheel but to abolish it. His mission in to gut the bird.
A possible third and final bird on the chopping block in this particular case may be racial equality. This bird is often castrated and left to die on the side of the road. Ironically, and beyond the fact that he would likely advocate rhythm and lemon rinds as primary methods of family planning, Dr. Ben Carson would have been a legitimate and highly qualified nominee for Surgeon General. Is it a coincidence that he is Trump’s only African-American selection for a major cabinet position?
Indisputably intelligent though Carson is, his nomination is the housing equivalent of selecting a prospective nursing student to open up a thoracic cavity and engage in some recreational exploratory surgery. Why not? You might find something interesting, and if the patient should expire we’ll just call it an autopsy. Trump’s strategy seems to be to put the token minority in the least appropriate position and then one day in the middle of a national housing crisis turn to Ben Carson during a press conference and say, “Heckuva job, Brownie.”
Rich Herschlag is well into his third decade as an author, consulting engineer, husband and father and is very tired.