Like a Bad Penny….

Right at the beginning of the puffy assessment of Ben Carson’s presidential stock written by Bloomberg Politics‘ Phil Mattingly appeared a reference that made me nearly fall out of my chair:

Carson is in the Capitol Hill office of his business manager, Armstrong Williams, who’s also a conservative talk radio host, consultant and owner of a handful of television and radio stations.

Armstrong Williams? Last time I recall hearing about ol’ Armstrong was when he suffered some serious disgrace for taking a lot of money ($241,000, to be exact) from the Bush-era Department of Education to shill for No Child Left Behind during his radio and TV gigs. He’s presumably soldiered on in his career as an entertainer and agitator, and now here he is again at the heart of the next presidential cycle’s likely wild-ass conservative “base” candidate.

[Carson] relies heavily on Williams, the consultant and owner of a handful of television and radio stations. Williams is his front door. To get to Carson, you must go through Williams, his friend of more than two decades. They used to speak every morning on Carson’s commute to work at Johns Hopkins.

Well, that explains a lot. But I should explain that I had a very special encounter with Armstrong Williams back in the days when I never turned down a media opportunity. For a while in the mid-1990s Williams had a call-in show on Paul Weyrich’s old National Empowerment Television cable network, and I was invited on to talk about crime policy (I had just written a chapter on the subject for a book). By way of introducing me, Williams said: “My next guest not only thinks like a liberal and talks like a liberal–he looks like a liberal.” I had kinda long hair back then, doncha know. So Armstrong teed me up for a variety of abusive caller “questions,” clearly unscreened or even encouraged. And his first question to me–again, this was supposed to be a discussion of crime policy–was: “How can you sleep at night?” This was his segue to a rant about the moral depravity of anyone who could defend that draft-dodging skirt-chasing socialist liar Bill Clinton. At one point, I said: “We ever gonna talk about crime policy, Armstrong?” I should have known better.

That was a while ago, and I suppose it’s possible Williams has cleaned up his act since then. After all, I have a shorter haircut.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.