As you may have already heard, there’s been some awkward news coming out of Housing and Urban Development this week and it has nothing to do with rent control apartments for the poor. Ben Carson has been doing some redecorating of his office and ran up a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars just for a few pieces of custom furniture. This was well in excess of what was supposedly allocated and the media is having a field day beating him up over it. This was precisely the sort of story the White House didn’t need at the moment and the administration is allegedly less than pleased. (The Hill)
Senior aides at the White House are reportedly “furious” after a number of stories were published regarding spending by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
CNN, citing sources with knowledge of the situation, reported that White House aides are seeking to stop the negative news stories about the department and Secretary Ben Carson. A source told CNN that White House aides want to better shape the response to the stories.
According to the network, President Trump has not yet made comments about the HUD reports. HUD staff member Helen Foster claimed she was replaced in her role because she refused to find a way around a $5,000 limit for redecorating Carson’s office.
The purchases include a custom hardwood table, chairs and a hutch which cost more than $30K. A hutch? Seriously? Who has a hutch in their office? The visuals are made even worse when you consider that this is the guy responsible for helping low-income people who frequently don’t even have a roof, to say nothing of a hutch.
Let’s just be refreshingly blunt here and point out what should be obvious. Much like Donald Trump, Ben Carson was a complete political novice when he entered the presidential race and then wound up in the cabinet. Anyone who had spent more than five minutes immersed in the political swamp at any level would have either known or hired somebody who knew that blowing that kind of money on decorating your office was an optical disaster. They would also have been aware that all such expenditures of taxpayer funds are made public and the media would be scouring every line item for anything which might serve to embarrass the President. That was an easier call than predicting the sun would rise in the east.
But even if President Trump is truly “furious” over this, do you think he’ll be weighing in on it? This might be one of those cases where he needs to pick a better messenger. Keep in mind that we’re talking about a guy who was literally offered a gold-plated toilet by the Guggenheim when he moved into the West Wing. He’s never exactly been bashful about ostentatious displays of wealth. Granted, he used his own money for all of that but the image remains the same.
Provided Carson can return all of these purchases and square the books, this particular “scandal” will probably fade away without the Secretary having to walk the plank. But it was another self-inflicted wound in an administration that obviously didn’t know how the swamp worked when they started draining it.