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“It’s Part Of The Culture”: Carson’s Implosion Is A Reflection Of The Con Artistry That Has Overtaken The GOP

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign is imploding. One could argue that that’s the result of a candidate in freefall: things always get ugly when a campaign is losing ground in the polls, and staff shakeups are inevitable. But the way that Carson’s campaign has imploded is yet another window into the way the GOP has allowed itself to be run into the ground by charlatans of all kinds.

To begin with, as a politician Ben Carson himself is something of a fraud. By all accounts an eminently successful neurosurgeon, Carson parlayed his story of success into a grander overarching narrative that every person of color could overcome structural racism by sheer dint of hard work and determination, plus an abiding faith in God. His story became mythologized, played out on stage and on film as an example of the model minority.

But Carson, like many successful specialists, is not exactly well-rounded in his knowledge of life and the world. He drew the wrong political conclusions from his rise in the medical field, and grew to believe in his own hype–not just that he had a knack for neurosurgery, but that he was a genius in all respects and specially guided by the hand of God. Without even a political science undergraduate’s knowledge of either domestic or foreign policy, Carson decided that he was qualified to be President of the United States–and that his utter lack of policy ken or experience would be unimportant, irrelevant and undiscovered. And if he failed as a presidential candidate? There would always be a right-wing media circuit and book tour available.

In typical fashion for such a candidate, he allowed close friends and confidants to dominate his campaign instead of people who actually knew what they were doing. In particular, he trusted key decisions to Armstrong Williams, a media maven, radio jockey and advertising executive who has rather transparently been using the Carson campaign as his own vehicle for professional advancement. That in turn led to comically bad candidate preparation and campaign decision-making, with the direct result that Carson’s staff is engaged in a mass exodus.

But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The libertarian-conservative ethic of “get rich any way you can” combined with a stubborn dismissal of objective fact makes political conservatism especially ripe for con artistry. It is no accident that Richard Viguerie was able to conduct his mail fundraising scams on the backs of GOP voters. It’s no accident that the tea party has been home to one grifter after another making a quick buck. American conservatism is the home of quack televangelists and secular Ayn Rand-spouting hucksters alike. Fox News itself is a long con perpetrated on fearful, older white Americans with the goal of making Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes rich while keeping Republican politicians in power. Donald Trump is merely the latest in a long line of egomaniacal scammers willing to play the same group of people for fools.

It should shock no one, then, that GOP presidential campaigns themselves are being waged by con artists, and themselves fall victim to media-hungry carnival barkers. It’s part of the culture.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 2, 2015

January 3, 2016 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Dr. Ben Carson Is On Life Support”: Slowly Fading, Just One Step Away From Hospice

Moments before Tuesday night’s fear-mongering GOP debate, Ben Carson gave a preview of the utter strangeness that was to emerge from his mouth during the night’s proceedings.

During a visit to the media spin room, Carson was asked if he would need to ramp up his rhetoric in the ensuing debate. His response was nothing short of bewildering.

“Um, well maybe I’ll bring some weapons with me, spice it up a little bit,” he told ABC News, chortling at his own odd suggestion. This off-hand remark was strangely prescient, characterizing the night was to come.

Instead of the foreign policy “slam dunk” he promised in a campaign video, Carson sunk into the background as the top-tier candidates—Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and to some degree Christie—duked it out in varying dour and vicious tones.

What little stage time Carson got (some 10 minutes and 27 seconds approximately) was consumed by a highlight reel of ill-fated remarks about bombing children and disruptive coughing, and, of course, a complaint about not getting enough time.

Hugh Hewitt asked a question about the former neurosurgeon’s ability to declare war where children would inevitably end up as casualties. The response could have served as a demonstration of strength, a label which often evades Carson next to the bombastic yelling of Trump, but ended up as an ill-fated comparison to his medical experience.

“Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them ‘We’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor,’” Carson tangentially responded. “They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.”

“And by the same token,” he went on, “you have to be able to look at the big picture, and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by a thousand pricks.”

Hewitt pressed him by bluntly asking if Carson would be OK with the deaths of thousands of civilians and children in an effort to fight terrorism. Amidst the boos that erupted in the Venetian Casino, Carson awkwardly replied, “You got it,” seemingly not believing the words he himself was actually saying. Even when Carson leaned on what little applicable experience he has, referencing the scholars fund he created to demonstrate leadership abilities, he misfired.

“One of the things that you’ll notice if you look through my life is that I don’t do a lot of talking,” Carson said. “I do a lot of doing.” But Carson gave more than 141 paid speeches between the start of 2014 and the beginning of his campaign, not to mention an extensive, quasi-illegal book tour wedged in the middle of this campaign cycle.

His floundering in the debate may not have been so noticeable if there weren’t as much at stake for Carson. It wasn’t that long ago that Carson bolted to the front of the GOP pack, drawing the attention of Trump’s oxygen-extinguishing ire (remember when he analogized him to a child molester?).

But November’s terrorist attacks in Paris pivoted the conversation to national security and foreign policy, causing Carson, who was woefully unprepared for any in-depth conversation on either topic, to plummet in the polls.

His campaign tried to make adjustments to mold the quiet doctor into an overnight foreign policy wonk, including a trip to Syrian refugee camps, which resulted in the badly worded summarization: They were not that bad. Carson is scheduled to take another trip, this time to Africa, this month.

Carson’s campaign even released a seven-step plan to “protect America” ahead of the debate, that includes a call for a declaration of war against ISIS. Only special ops forces would be needed on the ground for the time being, his communications manager Doug Watts told The Daily Beast yesterday.

Yet in the debate, Carson seemed to be all but certain that there would be ground troops in this war.

“If our military experts say we need boots on the ground, we should put boots on the ground and recognize that there will be boots on the ground and they’ll be over here, and they’ll be their boots if we don’t get out of there now,” he said during a particularly meandering answer.

But the seventh step of the procedural is the one that probably gives the most pause. The final proposal of the Carson Doctrine to make America safe again calls for an investigation of “the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and a supporter of terrorism.”

“Given the precarious situation America is in with sleeper cells and jihadists making threats from within, and CAIR’s background, publicly stated affinity with Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, we believe further investigation is in order,” Watts elaborated.

The United Arab Emirates did in fact put CAIR on its own version of a terrorist watch list in 2014, but experts balked at the suggestion that the organization poses a viable threat in the United States.

“Carson’s remarks are typically silly,” Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institutes in Washington, told The Daily Beast. “He pontificates a great deal about Muslim and Islamic matters, and every time he opens his mouth, he reveals himself to be exceptionally ignorant and informed entirely by bigots and a hateful rhetoric.”

The bigots to whom Ibish is referring include Islamophobe and recent GOP darling Frank Gaffney Jr., who has suggested that CAIR is waging a “stealthy, pre-violent” jihad against the United States. (Gaffney also insists American Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist is secretly working to help Muslim Brotherhood moles infiltrate the U.S. government.)

Ibish explained that while CAIR may have had “origins in Brotherhood-supporting or sympathetic causes,” the organization is by no means “connected to terrorism or in any practical, material sense supportive of terrorism.”

“If Dr. Carson doesn’t realize that CAIR has been ‘investigated’ since 9/11 as thoroughly as any American organizational entity has ever been investigated by the government, he hasn’t got a clue,” Ibish added. “But then again, he is a fool.”

For their part, CAIR condemned Carson a long time ago when he said that he was against a Muslim being president.

“Ben Carson is a failing candidate grasping at straws and seeking payback for CAIR’s previous criticism of his anti-Muslim bigotry,” Corey Saylor, the national legislative director for the organization, told The Daily Beast. “He found that Islamophobia gave him a boost in the past, so he is using it again.”

But there are no obvious signs that it will give him a boost now.

Carson fell from 22 percent to 11 percent in two Washington Post-ABC News polls taken less than a month apart. And even as the campaign attempts to right the sinking ship, private tensions between business manager Armstrong Williams and other staffers are getting played out in public.

And if last night’s debate was any indication, all Carson can do is smile and feign toughness on a stage with loudmouth bigots and opportunistic politicians simply out-muscling him.

It doesn’t work to play nice anymore.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, December 16, 2015

December 18, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Islamophobia, National Security, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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