Ben Carson has rejected a position in U. S. President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, according to media reports today. The Seventh-day Adventist retired neurosurgeon and former Republican rival endorsed Trump after dropping out of the presidential race. Many saw Carson as a likely head of Health and Human Services or as a candidate for Attorney General or the Education Department. Carson business manager and advisor Armstrong Williams said Tuesday that Carson will not fill any of those posts.
“It’s not an issue of him turning down anything” Williams told Politico. “It was clear that he had his pick of what he wanted to do.”
Speaking to a reporter for The Hill, Williams said Carson decided his lack of experience as an elected official made him better suited as an outside advisor than as Trump Administration appointee.
"Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency,” Williams told The Hill. “The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency."
In an early indicator of voters’ discontent with the political establishment, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the only two candidates to lead the crowded Republican field after July 2015, were the two GOP primary contenders who had no prior experience in elected office.
For a brief time, Carson overtook Trump as GOP frontrunner in national polling, but Carson’s popularity nosedived after Trump called into question Carson’s Seventh-day Adventist faith.
During a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Florida, Trump contrasted his professed faith and Carson’s:
"Can you believe it? Nobody believes I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. Boy, that's down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about."
That missive from Trump provided the Adventist Church in North America a brief window to introduce Adventism to a watching public. Denominational leaders had issued a statement when Carson announced his candidacy reaffirming the church’s neutrality in political contests.
The Adventist Church has a longstanding position of not supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office. This position is based both on our historical position of separation of church and state and the applicable federal law relating to the church’s tax-exempt status.
Soon after Trump’s questioning the Adventist faith and a series of Carson gaffes, Carson’s poll numbers began a decline that saw him drop out of the race without winning a single state. Carson endorsed Trump one week later, fueling speculation that Carson might be aiming for the number two spot on the Republican ticket. However, after clinching the nomination, Trump chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate.
After dropping out of the race for the White House, Carson was appointed chair of My Faith Votes, a Christian non-profit that targets Evangelical values voters to encourage their political participation. Carson continues to serve in that capacity.
His announcement today that he will not take a cabinet position ends months of conjecture over his future within the Trump Administration. It comes two days after President-elect Trump appointed white nationalist Stephen Bannon his chief strategist. The former head of alt-right news outlet Breitbart News, Bannon advised Trump in his successful campaign against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Bannon’s appointment elicited praise from the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other white nationalist groups.
Ben Carson has not publicly spoken out about the Bannon appointment.
UPDATE ONE - Since this story was published, Ben Carson posted on his verified Facebook page the following:
My decision not to seek a cabinet position in the Trump administration has nothing to do with the complexity of the job as is being reported by some news outlets. I believe it is vitally important for the Trump administration to have many outspoken friends and advisers who are outside of the Washington bubble. It is vital to have independent voices of reason and reconciliation if our nation is to heal and regain its greatness. I will continue to work with the transition team and beyond as we build a dynamite executive branch of government.
UPDATE TWO - In his first interview since being named Trump's chief strategist, Stephen Bannon told Hollywood Reporter on Friday, “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist.”
UPDATE THREE - On Monday, November 21, Carson told Fox News he would consider a cabinet post after all.
UPDATE FOUR - On Tuesday, November 22, President-elect Trump confirmed in a tweet that he is considering Carson to head HUD.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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