Stick a Fork in Ben Carson

Two days before Christmas, Steven Ginsberg and Robert Costa of the Washington Post landed an interview with Ben Carson. It was conducted in Carson’s basement man-cave. The below ground-level setting is appropriate because the transcript reads like an obituary.

Dr. Carson laments virtually everything, from his annoying advisers who keep urging him to be more combative, to his inability to get mulligans for his many missteps, to the quality of the electorate, to the way the media twists his words, to the way his campaign has spent money. The overwhelming sense you get is of a man who has already come to grips with failure.

And that’s a failure in itself because the interview was supposed to demonstrate that he understands his campaign’s problems and is preparing to retool and make a big push before Iowa.

What struck me more than anything, though, is how there was no mention of any of the 13 ridiculous things that Ben Carson actually believes. The mistakes, insofar as they are detailed at all, are limited to foreign policy blunders, like his insistence that the Chinese have a large presence in Syria. But, arguably, Carson began to slip right around the time that it came out that he thinks the Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain. It became increasingly clear that Carson doesn’t just have some far-right views on abortion and war crimes and the Holocaust and censorship, he actually has a borderline crazy belief system.

One wonders in this day and age how much this actually hurts you in a Republican nominating contest. After all, the guy in first place is the country’s most famous Birther. There are certainly areas where being an over-the-top bomb thrower helps you win support from the GOP base. Arguably, this was the way Carson won his initial popularity and support on the right. I assume this is what his advisers believe, too, and it’s why they’ve urged him to throw bombs not just at the president and his health care plan and reproductive rights, but at his Republican opponents.

Maybe his lack of foreign policy experience really is the best explanation for his precipitous fall in the polls. The only problem with that explanation is that Donald Trump should have suffered right along with Carson in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Maybe Trump’s bluster and bravado cover his lack of expertise better than Carson’s mellower act.

Whatever the explanation, Carson seems like a man who is already beaten before the first vote is cast. And he knows that he’s injured his reputation in the bargain.

Carson: A weak person isn’t selected by CNN and Time magazine as one of the 20 foremost physicians and surgeons in America. That was before they discovered that I’m conservative. A weak person doesn’t have all of these honorary degrees. Most people of accomplishment have one, maybe two or three honorary degrees at most. It’s the highest award that a university gives out. I have 67. That’s probably not indicative of a weak person who doesn’t get things done.

Costa: Has this campaign helped or hurt that reputation, that legacy?

Carson: Without question, it will hurt it. But it’s not about me. I’m willing to sacrifice that legacy and that reputation if we can get our country turned around. One person is not a big deal as far as I’m concerned.

If Carson thought there were the slightest chance that he’d win the nomination, he’d certainly not answer that question by saying that “without question” the campaign will end up hurting his reputation.

You can stick a fork in him. His presidential ambitions are done.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.