Without a doubt, the most embarrassing moment in politics that was not related to Donald Trump happened on Tuesday, courtesy of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. A freshman member of Congress found herself having to explain foreclosure properties to the highest ranking housing official in the country.
By all rights, Carson should be remembered as one of the greatest surgeons this country has ever produced. But sadly, he will likely be remembered for claiming that the pyramids were giant grain silos and living large on our dime. Well, on Tuesday, he added another embarrassment to the list. While testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, Carson fell down hard while trying to answer a question about foreclosure properties posed by Katie Porter of California.
Watch the exchange here.
When Porter asked Carson about “REOs,” or “real-estate owned properties,” Carson thought Porter was asking about Oreo cookies. Porter had to explain what an REO was–a house that goes into foreclosure. So the highest-ranking housing official in the country got mixed up about a common term in the housing industry.
Later that night, Porter told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that this exchange led her to wonder if Carson takes his job seriously. Watch here.
Porter was surprised that Carson expected her to explain concepts that she felt were some of the most rudimentary aspects of his job. In an understatement, she said she found it “disappointing” and “frustrating.” She claimed Carson gave “zero competent answers” at that hearing, which she called the worst display she’d seen to date on the committee.
By the following morning, Porter concluded that Carson’s performance wasn’t just “disappointing” and “frustrating,” but also disqualifying. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Porter said that Carson needed to be out of a job. Watch here.
Porter told Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist that when Carson asked her to come to HUD and explain the problems at the Federal Housing Administration to him and his staff, it showed “disrespect for the importance of his job.” She believes that Carson has no business in his current post.
If you think Porter sounds like a clone of Elizabeth Warren, it’s no accident. She actually studied at Harvard Law under Warren, and shares Warren’s passion for standing up for the rights of consumers. Before going to Congress, she made a name for herself as an expert on mortgage fraud.
Porter bills herself as an open, unashamed progressive. On paper, this makes her an odd fit for her traditionally Republican district, which includes Irvine and Tustin in south-central Orange County. She upended two-term Republican Mimi Walters–best known as the woman who gleefully posed for a selfie in the Rose Garden with fellow Republican Claudia Tenney after the passage of a Republican attempt to gut Obamacare. Both Walters and Tenney paid the ultimate political price for their folly.
But Porter showed earlier this week that she’s still keeping a close eye on her district even as she’s risen to fame for making Carson look foolish. Earlier this week, Porter took to Twitter to reveal that one of her constituents had been diagnosed with cancer.
Porter thought it would be a good idea to help. But when she asked the House Ethics Committee if she could use her cyber-bully pulpit to support this woman, she got a surprise.
The intent of that rule seems reasonable–to prevent the appearance that a lawmaker is improperly using the power of his her office. But Porter found out that while she can’t promote an effort to save the lives of ordinary people, there’s nothing that bars politicians from getting too cozy with corporate fat cats.
I’d add something else. Lots of rules, not a lot of justice–and a lot of fundamentally warped priorities. Promoting lifesaving efforts bad, shilling for corporate fat cats good? What’s wrong with this picture?
While Porter’s district still tilts Republican downballot, she seems to be in good shape for reelection. Cook Political Report rates her race as “Lean Democratic,” while Larry Sabato doesn’t even have her on the board. If she wins reelection, it won’t be because she makes Carson and other Trump officials look foolish. It’ll be because she’s taking care of her district first. That’s how you get people who have voted Republican for decades to not only vote Democratic, but keep doing so.
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