Is Carson Losing His Teflon Shield?

Up until now, Dr. Ben Carson has had an extraordinarily charmed existence on the presidential campaign trail. Even though his world-view is weird and John Birchie, political reporters either don’t notice it or don’t think it’s important. Fellow GOP candidates give him a wide berth, and conservative activists tend either to adore him or only talk about his positive qualities.

Some of this is undoubtedly a byproduct of the party-wide obsession with bringing Donald Trump down to earth; since Carson seems to have some of the same “outsider” appeal as The Donald, the Republican Establishment is happy to promote him at Trump’s expense. And above all, the mental identification of Carson with Herman Cain–you know, another unqualified African-American conservative who had his 15 minutes of fame before retreating to obscurity–seems to exert a powerful influence on attitudes towards Carson, even though it is extremely unlikely the doctor is going to succumb to a sex scandal.

Anyway, this kid-gloves-treatment of Carson could be coming to an end, if WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin is any indication:

Donald Trump wants to round up 11 million people in two years for deportation. He approves of Russia’s incursion into Syria. He has a tax plan that adds at least $10 trillion to the debt. And with all that, he is not the most ignorant or unfit GOP presidential contender. That distinction goes to Ben Carson.

Wow, how’s that for an opening shot?

Rubin proceeds to recite the many examples of Carson showing he doesn’t know much about various subjects from the composition of NATO to the history of the Holocaust, and then turns to her fellow Republicans with justified scorn:

Conservatives have a dangerous habit of excusing ignorance or offensive comments so long as they come from someone attacking liberal elites. One does not need to elevate ignoramuses to cultlike status simply because they also happen to attack the media or liberal dogma. In doing so, Republicans wind up getting behind crank candidates and losing elections to mediocre candidates. (Anyone recall the “I-am-not-a-witch” Christine O’Donnell?)

There is a Chauncey Gardner-like quality to Carson. He speaks softly, smiles a lot and lulls his audience into the belief he possess great insights and wisdom. He is an esteemed neurosurgeon and a lovely dinner speaker. He is, however, entirely unfit for the presidency, seemingly oblivious to basic historical facts, constitutional concepts and world events. Surely conservative Republicans, especially some in the right-wing media who have fawned over him, should have figured this out by now.

This kinda makes me wish Rubin would take a similarly jaundiced look at Carly Fiorina. But hell no! She may soon be head of the DC branch of Fiorina’s fan club. Guess somebody else will at the appropriate moment have to point out that this isn’t a candidate anyone would take seriously if she wasn’t useful in bashing the “liberal elites” with a first name of Hillary and a last name of Clinton.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.