The Ultimate Referees in the Ben Carson “West Point Scandal”

So already people are choosing up largely partisan sides and battling over the accuracy and significance of Politico‘s discovery that Dr. Ben Carson’s proximity to what he’s described in one of his books as the “offer” of a “full scholarship” to West Point isn’t exactly accurate. Now that the Carson campaign is hotly denying that it “admitted” and “fabrication” of facts to Politico, we’re getting deeply into a crossfire of mendacity claims, with some conservatives who originally thought the “story” might be a problem for Carson now backing into a posture of defending him and attacking Politico.

It’s not lost on anybody that when the West Point story broke, Carson was already grappling with claims his childhood friends didn’t remember the Angry Ben Carson he described in his books. From one point of view, a picture is emerging of him as a serial embellisher if not a fabricator; from another, that there is, as Carson’s alter ego and “business manager,” Armstrong Williams put it, a “witch hunt” underway.

For Carson’s true believers, the idea of their candidate being the target of a “witch hunt” is an extremely plausible idea, insofar as they grasp his own deeply paranoid theory that he and people like him are being pursued by Marxist conspirators using the media and the conventions of “political correctness” to destroy him and then the country.

But I suspect the real referees in this and similar disputes are the conservative evangelicals who know little or nothing of the man’s Bircher ideology and just see him as a Christian servant-leader with a distinguished career and a common touch. I can’t tell you how they will react to today’s war of words, but something tells me they do not place a lot of faith in Politico.

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.