When biography forms the foundation of a presidential campaign, nobody should be surprised when that biography is examined. Dr. Ben Carson discovered that last week and should expect more through the snows of Iowa. After Iowa, the forecast only gets stormier.
Politico’s headline last week claimed Carson’s campaign admitted he fabricated his acceptance to West Point. The problem for Politico was that Carson never said he was “accepted” to West Point, not explicitly at least. He said he was offered a scholarship, and made it clear he never applied to the academy.
After the Politico story, advertisements emerged showing the United States Military Academy using the word “scholarships.” Thus, Carson’s story – and perhaps his campaign – was saved because of his book’s strained accuracy. I hadn’t considered “scholarship” in Carson’s book to mean what the advertisements said. But Carson’s strained accuracy is better than an exaggeration. And on this day, it was accurate enough to turn the tables on Politico.
Whether Carson’s book was referring to common usage of the word “scholarship” represented in the advertisements is up to your own sense of common sense. So being offered a “scholarship” to West Point it seems doesn’t necessarily mean one is accepted to West Point. One thing is for sure, Carson had previously benefited from the perception among some that West Point wanted him, or even accepted him.
It seems Carson’s West Point kerfuffle has played out. But the forecast is calling for more biographical storms for Dr. Carson.
Be sure, after the West Point saga, Carson won’t enjoy much leeway from now on. Other campaigns have picked up the scent and are pressing biographical inquiries. The Wall Street Journal has raised a range of questions about the veracity of Carson’s biography.
That’s politics. That isn’t a plot by the left or the Republican establishment.
Live by the biography, die by the biography. Scrutiny to determine the truth about would-be presidents is a good thing.
Carson notes that the media wasn’t interested in Obama’s biography and past in 2008. That’s correct. But it also demonstrates precisely why scrutiny of a candidate’s biography and past is essential. Ben Carson cannot become the Republican’s version of Obama – a candidate elevated by a false or exaggerated biography.
To be sure, Politico’s story had less accuracy than Carson’s West Point biography. Unlike Carson’s strained accuracy, Politico was pure exaggeration. And contrary to a characterization of an earlier post of mine, the Carson campaign’s response was pure brilliance. They turned the tables on Politco.
Carson’s camp must learn that not all scrutiny is a left-wing plot.
If the last week seemed rough, just wait for South Carolina. South Carolina separates the professionals from pretenders. It is the land of three dearly departed political masters: Lee Atwater, Carroll Campbell and Rod Shealy. These three political operators gave no quarter to foes, and a new generation of consultants has taken their place. I recall one political consultant in South Carolina who made a point to spray paint his own client’s signs with slurs. Sympathy, you see, gets votes too.
I am amused by how many accuse me of being a leftist anytime I raise questions about Carson’s entirely unacceptable and anti-constitutional views on any number of issues. Does an appealing biography trump holding big-government positions? Does speaking out at a prayer breakfast overcome a razor-thin command of policy? To Carson supporters, so far the answer is yes.
That sounds like 2008.
I’ve learned in the last week that some Carson supporters consider anyone who has served in office to be bought off, ruined and corrupt. Even here Carson displays his clumsy command of history. In a Facebook post, Carson claimed the signers of the Declaration of Independence had not served in elected office. How someone could make such a brazen mistake about American history demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of history.
In fact, 28 of 58 signers served in elected office. Carson, as he has before on other missteps, clumsily revised. His revised version said the Founders didn’t hold federal elected office. Naturally, there was no federal government when the Declaration was signed so it’s an explanation that can only work for the easily swindled or those who consider him a candidate sent by God.
Don’t laugh. In an odd bookend, the day after the Politico smear, the headline “Dr. Ben Carson is a Prophet, Are We Listening?” appeared here at PJ Media.
Maybe Carson has been sent by God, maybe not. That is something I won’t even try to discern. Yet there is something unsettling and troubling about hearing any discussion about a presidential candidate being a prophet of God. It sounds like 2008 when the Chosen One came to restore balance to the Earth. It sounds like any number of dangerous moments in history when men were elevated to a status they didn’t deserve.
Humility isn’t determined by how slowly and softly one speaks.
Many saw the Politico smear as a classic hit by the Left. On the surface it was indeed a left-wing hit because Politico is the mouthpiece of the left. But Politico was only the messenger. Nor was it a hit by the GOP establishment, because they don’t benefit from Carson’s disappearance. Carson doesn’t drain votes from their preferred candidates. Instead, a gaggle of small-government conservatives in the race would benefit most from Carson’s fall.
Ben Carson will face withering scrutiny over the next few months, assuming he maintains a viable presence in the polls. Biography will be part of that scrutiny because biography is what launched his rise in the polls. When that inquiry is complete, if Carson’s campaign survives, scrutiny of Carson’s policies will follow. Nobody should be surprised or offended.