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What Qualifies Ben Carson To Run HUD? 'His Life,' Says Longtime Adviser


President-elect Donald Trump has made another Cabinet announcement. This morning he appointed Dr. Ben Carson as his secretary of Housing and Urban Development. For more on the latest member of the new Trump administration, we're joined now by a longtime adviser and friend of Ben Carson. He is conservative talk show host Armstrong Williams. Mr. Williams, thanks for being with us.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: Yes, good morning.

MARTIN: A few weeks ago you were quoted in media reports saying Ben Carson wasn't interested in a Cabinet job. And I'm quoting now, "Dr. Carson feels he has," quote, "no government experience. He's never run a federal agency. The last thing he'd want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency." Is that no longer the case?

WILLIAMS: That was accurate, by the way.

MARTIN: Then let - then definitely fill us in on what your perspective is on Dr. Carson's experience and if he is a good fit for this job.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Carson was always clear that his preference was to remain in private industry. He felt he could be more effective and supportive of the president-elect. But he also was clear that if Mr. Trump insisted that he wanted him in his Cabinet, he would certainly give it serious consideration. My only comment was there are many people who spend their lives running government agencies and bureaucracies and could absolutely - they're out there - that could be considered. But obviously Mr. Trump felt Mister - Dr. Carson brought something. Because there's just so many things that the media and people don't understand about Dr. Carson.

If you spent the last 25 years involved with his family and his - the things that he's involved in, you understand that he has a lot of technical experience in areas in housing. He understands much more than you can imagine about finance and zoning and tax laws and banking policies, urban planning and these anti-discrimination laws. But Dr. Carson's position was that he would - he preferred that if Mr. Trump could find someone that could fit the role of what he wanted, he would have preferred to stay in private industry but that's not what Mr. Trump wanted. He wanted Dr. Carson as his Cabinet and he's going to have to serve.

MARTIN: Well then let me ask you to flesh out some of Dr. Carson's resume. We, of course, know about his medical career, very successful surgeon. But what in his background prepares him for this particular post?

WILLIAMS: His life growing up in subsidized housing, growing up in poor communities, understanding what happens, that you can go into the communities and build houses all you want. In 10 years they could disappear if you don't have jobs and if you have the skills to take those jobs, if you know that opportunities to create jobs in those communities, he understands that vocational and technical skills are very important. And he also understands that a lot of people who may have an opportunity for these jobs, they have felony records. They have - they don't pass drug tests. And there are a lot of things that we just don't talk about enough that keep people from taking opportunities. And to Dr. Carson's understanding of education through the Carson scholarship, and he understands of how health is involved and - including mental health with people and opportunities and their self-esteem because they feel they lack opportunities.

His medical career has given him an extreme foundation. And also he's never been disconnected from these inner cities and these people who live these lives. Dr. Carson may have aspired to become a world-renowned pediatric surgeon and a presidential candidate, but he's never lost the human touch with people. And so when you have those kind of experiences and people that advise you and remind you and talk about issues and what works, he brings that experience with him to this position.

MARTIN: Donald Trump has embraced this idea of him being a disrupter to government. Ben Carson is an outsider to some degree to this kind of position. Can you tell us one thing that he would change about this agency and how it does its work?

WILLIAMS: I would never get into trying to speak as - in terms of what Dr. Carson would change. Dr. Carson doesn't operate that way. Dr. Carson carefully examines. He's reading - in fact, he's been reading and studying for the last week, talking and sitting down with people who have experience and talking to just everyday people in the communities. And Dr. Carson at some point will gather exactly how he wants to leave his blueprint and make the difference and revitalize not only inner city and urban America, but also the rural areas in this country.

MARTIN: Armstrong Williams is a close adviser and friend of Dr. Ben Carson, who has been tapped by Donald Trump to be the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Thank you so much for your time this morning.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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