Rule of Law

The Truth About Ben Carson and West Point

See Update: “Storms in the Forecast for Ben Carson.”

The opposing waves of response to the Politico story are a reminder that sometimes the truth is somewhere in between. Some are defending Ben Carson from Politico, and most every mainstream news organ is turning him into wood pulp. The truth about his West Point saga might be somewhere in between.

But whatever the truth is, the incident reveals a recurring and perhaps unrecoverable trait of candidate Carson.  He just doesn’t seem to know what he is talking about, whether it be Cuba, the Voting Rights Act, or how West Point works.

First, the easy truth. The heart of the Politico story is this line from Carson’s book, courtesy of Dave Weigel’s snippet of it:

Later, I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.

There you have it. Now things get foggy. To a teenage Ben Carson, this might mean he thought he heard some authority figure tell him he should go to West Point and it wouldn’t cost him anything. That figure might be General William Westmoreland. Carson isn’t clear who offered the “scholarship.” But maybe to a young Ben Carson, that’s what he honestly thought was on the table.

It is true that Carson never said he applied to West Point, much less was accepted. That’s the pro-Carson defense.

But to Politico, this all infers that Carson entirely fabricated an acceptance to West Point, an acceptance that never occurred. If true, that’s the end of the Ben Carson we thought we knew, and the beginning of Dr. Phony Baloney. It would also be the end of his campaign.

The statements in the book don’t support Politico.

But the Carson defenders also have a problem. By the age when an adult Ben Carson wrote this book, he should have learned to be more precise in his language. It seems that Dr. Carson hasn’t found a remedy to what ails him: he doesn’t seem to have any idea what he is talking about — not in his book about West Point, and not now while he is running for president. In instance after instance, Carson just doesn’t seem ready for the spotlight. Perhaps he should run for a county council seat somewhere first to hone his tongue and bone up on basic skills besides opening up someone’s skull.

Worse, Carson had layers of editors who would have asked him about this statement in his book. At some point, the statement “I was offered a scholarship to West Point” would leap from the page and he would have been asked about it. By the time Carson wrote these words, he should have known that there are no such things of offers of a scholarship to West Point unless one is accepted to West Point.

That might be a distinction Team Carson dismisses as insignificant. Sure enough, defenders like Dave Weigel (who loves when the left engages in word trickery to get themselves out of a jam) are defending Carson. That’s a bad sign.

Other bad signs continue to mount for Ben Carson that the presidency simply isn’t the office he should be seeking. Adults writing books should know enough about their country to know that everyone in West Point is on scholarship. That if one is offered a “scholarship” to West Point, it means they have been accepted as a student.

The threat from the Politico story to Carson isn’t that he tells tall tales, but rather that it reinforces the idea that he simply doesn’t understand the complexities of his newfound profession.