Ben Carson Stumped By Ayanna Pressley, Katie Porter, On HUD Policy, Basic Morality
Tuesday was Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson's first appearance before the Democrat-led House Financial Services Committee. When Republicans were running the show, these check-ins were as challenging as a college entrance exam for
Felicity Huffman's kid. This time the committee chair was Rep. Maxine Waters. Carson should've just sent his $31,000 dinette set in his place. It would've performed better.
Waters didn't waste much time before dragging Carson to the curb like it was trash pickup day at the Capitol. She accused Carson's department of "actively causing harm." (This was probably Donald Trump's personal directive, so Carson might get a free White House tote bag.) Waters called HUD's plan to reduce rental assistance "outrageous." She's also not thrilled with his "cruel proposal" to evict illegal immigrants (and their American-citizen children) from subsidized housing. HUD also sucked so badly at providing disaster assistance to Puerto Rico a senior official literally quit over it.
Then it was Rep. Ayanna Pressley's turn at the mic. She told Carson she'd "waited a long time for this moment." Yikes! Sister's serving serious notice. She's coming for "bloody satisfaction." Pressley said her district has "waited even longer" for Carson's agency to "do its job," and she "makes no apologies" for her passionate rebuke because the matter is "very personal." She concedes that Carson's an esteemed brain surgeon. (We think he performed the world's first successful brain removal on himself.) However, when it comes to all HUD-related activities, he's completely unqualified. Worse, he's perhaps perfectly qualified to further the Trump administration's total disregard for the poor and struggling.
Please take a moment to watch Pressley's full remarks (included above). She's masterful. And all Carson can do while Pressley clobbers him is slouch like some sullen teenager denied expensive office furniture. This is Congress, asshole. Sit up straight and answer the lady's questions respectfully.
PRESSLEY: Yes or no, please. Is stable and safe housing a social determinant of health?
CARSON: Sounds like you have not been here and heard most of my testimony.
That is not a "yes or no." It also "sounds like" Carson needs to have Pressley's foot broken off in his ass. Who does he think he is? His response was a mumbled collection of unintelligible words, as if Pressley wasn't deserving of his eye contact or enunciation. It only got worse.
PRESSLEY: Do you believe the substandard housing conditions pose a risk to tenants' physical, mental, and emotional health?
CARSON: You already know the answer to that.
That's not in any way how congressional testimony works, and Pressley ain't having it.
PRESSLEY: Yes or no! I know the answer. Do you know the answer?
Damn right! Pressley knows her shit. She wants to know if Carson knows he's shit. Carson then tried to "reclaim his time." Yes, seriously. First place, that's Aunt Maxine's catchphrase. More to the point, that's not how any of this works. Carson has no "time" to "reclaim." What would would he even do with it? Mumble some more as if half-asleep in jerk pajamas?
PRESSLEY: You don't get to do that.
WATERS: The time belongs to the gentle lady.
Carson works for Republicans so he probably doesn't have much experience talking to black women. But he needs to learn how to do better than this. He did have some fun playfully demonstrating his Forrest Gumpness to Rep. Katie Porter. As our wife pointed out, he literally smirks his way through their exchange.
Carson sent Porter a pack of Oreo cookies. They were Double Stuf, which we guess was a nice touch. He even included a handwritten note. There's no evidence that he was equally gracious to Rep. Pressley, which frankly makes our blood boil.
Fox News claimed Democrats used Tuesday's hearings to confound Carson with "obscure acronyms." In addition to REO, Carson also couldn't tell Rep. Joyce Beatty what OMWI stands for. It's Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, and Carson couldn't name the person who heads the office. Irony is also not a sandwich cookie.
This morning, Brian Kilmeade on "Fox & Friends" complained that Democrats with their jellybean tests were unfair to Carson, who's "just getting used" to a job he's had for two years. That's half his total tenure (we hope). When can we demand basic competence -- during next year's lame duck session?
And the problem isn't that Carson is in over his head. Pressley rightly points out that Carson's policies at HUD are "devoid of empathy and humanity." That won't improve once he learns some acronyms.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.