Secretary Carson - You Will Need to Be the Great Communicator
New York’s 5th Representative, Democrat Greg Meeks, had this to say about incoming HUD Secretary Ben Carson: “Dr. Carson’s past statements on housing have not been consistent with the Congressional intent behind many of HUD’s programs.” Uhm, yeeesssss …that’s true. What progressives label civil rights, Carson calls social engineering schemes gone wrong. But I’m sure some of Meeks’ colleagues will now tell him to amp up his attacks on Ben Carson, as his confirmation hearings approach. How dare Meeks try to battle the good doctor in the policy arena?! Ad Hominem Greg! Attack the man, not his ideas!
Which is the whole point, of course. Carson as HUD Secretary will question just about every fundamental assumption that the 50-year-old agency's philosophy rests on. And it will soon be clear that progressives will try to tear him down personally - not an easy task for someone who is truly a believer and an accomplished citizen and surgeon - to ensure that the status quo when it comes to housing and urban development is not threatened.
Their audience will be both those who supposedly benefit from HUD's policies as well as the wider liberal audience who will be horrified when Carson tries to inject a more responsible, yet community-oriented philosophy into HUD. It will be easy to cook up stories of single mothers being unable to find affordable housing, and harder to present stories in the media that frame the potential longer term benefits that a more rational market-based approach to housing would bring. And how it could help lift neighborhoods out of the cycles of poverty and violence that they have been locked into for generations now.
Ben Carson, however, will need to communicate as effectively as Reagan himself. And give reason for hope and inspiration as he also makes painful changes to HUD policy. Because, for example, consider if some journalists looking to cause a little mischief will decide to dig up some dirt on Reagan's low-profile HUD Secretary, Samuel Pierce - whose life and legal and political careers defined a set of milestones for African Americans. But the scandals around HUD during Pierce's years and in the following years, never actually touched Pierce himself and seemed to have more to do with typical log-rolling involving both sides of the aisle and pet projects being traded like baseball cards. What Pierce did do was impose strict controls on funding of public housing, for which he earned the wrath of many in Washington, and around the country.
And Pierce was an insider - a life-long GOP member and a lawyer with decades of experience in government by the time Reagan appointed him in 1981. Carson - the ultimate outsider - couldn't be more different than Pierce. But he will share one thing with Pierce: a healthy skepticism when he looks at future HUD projects. He will need trusted aides with some of Pierce's type of long experience in government, in order to survive the storms awaiting him in Washington D.C. And around the country as well. And Ben Carson will have to tell the story of why he is overhauling HUD, over and over again. He will have to keep getting better at sound bites, in other words, and become the great communicator. To both those in affected neighborhoods, and to the wider audience in America.Posted by AllardK at December 8, 2016 1:26 PM