COMIC RELIEF

Posted in Quick Hits on January 26th, 2017 by Ed

From Elizabeth Warren on social media:

Yes, I have serious, deep, profound concerns about Dr. Carson’s inexperience to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Yes, I adamantly disagree with many of the outrageous things that Dr. Carson said during his presidential campaign. Yes, he is not the nominee I wanted.

But “the nominee I wanted” is not the test.

Millions of American families depend on HUD programs, including tens of thousands of families in Massachusetts. For many of them, HUD assistance is the difference between a safe, stable home and life on the street. As someone who has spent a lot of time working on housing policy in this country, my focus is on helping these families – and the countless others who could benefit from a stronger agency.

During the nomination process, I sent Dr. Carson a nine-page letter with detailed questions on a whole range of issues: Section 8 housing assistance; lead exposure in public housing; programs to prevent and end homelessness; programs to help victims of domestic violence; fighting housing discrimination; HUD’s role in preparing for and recovering from natural disasters; and, more broadly, the standards he will use for managing the department, including the steps he will take to protect the rights of LGBT Americans.

Dr. Carson’s answers weren’t perfect. But at his hearing, he committed to track and report on conflicts of interest at the agency. In his written responses to me, he made good, detailed promises, on everything from protecting anti-homelessness programs to enforcing fair housing laws. Promises that – if they’re honored – would help a lot of working families.

Can we count on Dr. Carson to keep those promises? I don’t know. People are right to be skeptical; I am. But a man who makes written promises gives us a toehold on accountability. If President Trump goes to his second choice, I don’t think we will get another HUD nominee who will even make these promises – much less follow through on them.

If Dr. Carson doesn’t follow through on his commitments, I will be the very first person he hears from – loudly and clearly and frequently. I didn’t hesitate to criticize past HUD Secretaries when they fell short, and I won’t hesitate with Dr. Carson – not for one minute.

Don't worry, guys. We extracted a totally unenforceable list of promises from this guy who serves entirely at the leisure of the President once the Senate confirms him.

The rhetoric on the left generally counts Warren as one of The Good Ones, so this line of reasoning is particularly alarming. I do understand that part of this is a hat-tip to reality – these nominees are going to be confirmed anyway, and you have to pick your battles if you truly intend to try to stop an appointee from the position of the minority in the Senate. But at some point we have to wonder what exactly it would take before the Democrats in the Senate would actually do one time what the GOP has done as a matter of routine every single time a Democratic president has made an appointment. Does the nominee have to show up at the hearing wearing an actual Nazi uniform before they can amass the backbone even to cast a symbolic, meaningless No vote? Warren is correct that voting No would accomplish little here; the GOP has a majority on the committee and in the chamber. So why is that not a reason in favor of voting No? If it doesn't matter, why sign your name onto the impending disaster in any way, shape, or form?

Ben Carson is the very definition of a warm body. He will do nothing. HUD is 99.9% civil service and any "orders" would be coming from the White House anyway. I get that. What makes less sense is the outright refusal of the Democratic Party to offer any serious resistance (or even the pretense thereof) to anything. If Donald Trump isn't "bad enough" to warrant the kind of procedural obstructionism that congressional Republicans have applied to everything Obama or Clinton ever attempted to do, who is? Trump is not popular. He lost the popular vote and a majority of the country sees him as some combination of idiot and monster. Yet the Democrats still cannot bring themselves to offer anything like opposition to him – even just play-acting token opposition. We see the same "Let's show the public how Bipartisan we are and find areas where we can work with him!" logic that has reduced the party to almost total irrelevance in contemporary politics. They don't have the House. They don't have the Senate. Or the White House. Or the states (currently 17 have Democratic govs and 18 have Democratic legislatures). Part of this is beyond their control. Part of it is not beyond their control.

Standing up and saying "Fuck this guy, we're going to try to torpedo him at every turn" is the most obvious possible play in this situation. Failing to do it will be fatal. Imagine a redux of the 2002-03 era in which every future Democratic candidate, having lacked the balls to oppose Bush in even the most obvious opportunities, is saddled with the baggage of having voted to support the impending trainwreck.

Voters aren't responding very well to overtures of working together. Perhaps try actually standing for something – anything – and voters might find that more appealing.