The hilarity of malignant ignorance. Twitter photo. Front photo by Andrew Harnik/AP
We know you don't really need more evidence of the evil clown show that is our current government. But if you did: Check out the surreal appearance before the Democrat-led House Financial Services Committee of alleged Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who in a series of mind-bending exchanges veered between stupor, belligerence, smirking condescension and breathtaking ignorance about the basics of his job, prompting stunned observers on social media to offer, "Huge congrats on making Betsy DeVos look like she has her shit together." The mumblecore former brain surgeon who manages to make brain surgery look bad - you gotta wonder how many of his patients survived - is also the guy who said slavery was the best thing to happen to black people and illegal immigrants who get caught voting should be stripped of their citizenship. So it's little wonder that after two years he still has no clue what he's doing other than, according to his Trumpian overlord, making housing harder to find for people he's supposed to be helping, and occasionally confusing cookies with foreclosures.
Thus did Carson bunglingly try to defend a proposal that would cut by 16.4% a HUD budget that's already seeing more health and safety violations; a plan to impose 150% rent increases on poor people in subsidized housing; and a rule change that would purge from government-subsidized housing undocumented immigrants, along with their U.S.-born children with citizenship - a shift that would render over 55,000 children homeless, and a move that fiery Committee Chair Rep. Maxine Waters dubbed "cruel," charging, "The department is actively causing harm." Using the current racist standard for who does and doesn't matter in America, Carson basically responded with yeah, but we're only harming brown people: Citing years-long waiting lists for "legal citizens," he argued, “It seems only logical that taxpaying American citizens should be taken care of first...It’s not that we’re cruel. It's that we are logical...You take care of your own first.”
That was Carson's story and he was sticking with it - he later bewilderingly argued it's just like when airline passengers in an emergency are told to put their own oxygen mask on first before helping others: "Obviously, we need to take care of our people" - though in the hearings, confronted by mouthy women, he often added a dab of sexist hubris. When Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) pointedly asked what would happen to tens of thousands of kids thrown into the street, he snarled, “Maybe what will happen is you and Congress will do your job and solve the problem.” When Rep. Ayanna Pressley, checking her notes, repeatedly challenged him about the impact of budget cuts - “Yes or no - is stable and safe housing a social determinant of health?” - he dodged a while before raging at her to “ask me some questions yourself and stop reading.” She calmly kept "reclaiming my time." He furiously tried to do the same. Waters, imperial: "You don't get to do that." Carson, asshole: "Oh."
The high or low or too-absurd-to-be-believed-even-of-someone-who-illegally-ordered-a- $31,000-dining-room-table-for-himself moment of the day came when the great Rep. Katie Porter asked him about the alarmingly high rates of foreclosure at HUD. "Do you know what an R.E.O. is?" she mildly began, because of course the head of housing would know the common acronym for foreclosed properties that stands for real-estate owned. “An Oreo?” stammered the baffled Carson. And so it went. After Porter explained things, sounding like an exhausted teacher trying not to lose it with a particularly dense 3rd grader, Carson offered to connect her with “people who do that” at HUD, clearly unaware Porter spent a decade representing California in a $25 billion mortgage settlement. Later, Carson jokingly posted a picture of himself sending a box of Oreos to Porter, because ha ha isn't utter, abysmal, malevolent ignorance just hilarious? Then today, improbably, even Carson's weirdness paled before Trump's bonkers, sniffing, incoherent temper tantrum in the Rose Garden. Will this be over soon, please?
The clowniest clown of 'em all makes his ever-gracious exit. Getty Images