Ben Carson spokesman: He won't take a cabinet position because he doesn't want to cripple Trump's presidency

His name’s been kicked around for Education and for Health and Human Services, the latter of which will be an especially important, immensely difficult technocratic job if the GOP follows through on repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with a new system. You’ll need a bureaucrat who knows what he’s doing to help disentangle the insurance industry from one regime and to introduce it to another. Carson’s qualification for the job is that, well, he’s a doctor.

According to Armstrong Williams, his right-hand man, he’s uninterested in it for precisely that reason, because he’s wise enough to know that he’s not qualified to manage a federal agency. Good for him, but … didn’t he compete for a job last year that would have put him in charge of all executive agencies? Was that really just a book tour for him after all?

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has told President-elect Donald Trump that he isn’t interested in serving as secretary of Health and Human Services, a Carson ally confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday…

“Dr. Carson was never offered a specific position, but everything was open to him,” Williams told The Hill in a phone call.

“Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”…

Williams said Carson would only advise the president-elect unofficially.

Newt Gingrich also seems likely to pass on a cabinet position, although not for the same reasons as Carson. Imagine Newt declaring himself unfit to run anything. He told Megyn Kelly last night that he wants to be for Trump what Harry Hopkins was for FDR, a sort of technocrat-in-chief: “I want to be the general planner, looking out over the next eight years and trying to design how we fundamentally reshape the federal government.” A smaller, more streamlined government sounds like a good thing in the abstract, but in theory it could end up giving the presidency unusually direct control over the various arms of government. How comfortable you feel about that depends on how comfortable you feel with Trump, and whether you think the ongoing purge of his transition team in favor of top-down control is more likely to produce better or worse cabinet picks. Getting rid of red tape is all to the good. A more nimble presidency in an age when the public supports ever greater presidential power might be not so good. We’ll see.

By the way, a name being mentioned for Secretary of Education in lieu of Carson is Michelle Rhee, who went to war with the teachers’ union in Washington D.C. when she was chancellor of public schools there in the last decade. She fired bad teachers and proposed financial incentives for good performance in exchange for an end to tenure — exactly the sort of reforms conservatives have championed for decades to reduce union influence over public education. Student performance increased during her tenure. But the left despised her and Washington is as blue as cities get, so she ended up being pushed out. Given her notoriety for radical experimentation in D.C., bringing her back as U.S. Secretary of Education would be a bold pick by Trump, throwing down the gauntlet to the left in the fight over education. It might well end up being the single best cabinet pick he makes. I hope he follows through. Few appointees would represent draining the swamp like Rhee would.

One other note on appointments: Corey Lewandowski is going to end up somewhere in the Trump White House, but we can probably start a pool now on how long he’ll last. Reince Priebus and the GOP establishment wing of Trump’s administration aren’t big fans; neither, reportedly, are Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the two most influential members of Trump’s inner circle. Corey has a rap after his clashes this past summer with Paul Manafort for not working well with others, especially when they threaten his turf, and he’ll have to answer to Priebus, Kushner, and Steve Bannon as a WH deputy. Hard to see how it works out, but he’s a loyalist so Trump’s going to give him a chance.

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