Roger L. Simon

High Noon: Carson versus Trump


All the polls of recent weeks and now months have shown Donald Trump in a substantial lead over other candidates for the Republican nomination except for one person, Ben Carson, who appears in several situations to be gaining on  him. No one else seems to making much of a dent — for now anyway.  Soon it may be too late for traditional politicians to gain traction.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, as the contest between the two men heated up, Carson rose to the bait of a questioner and made a veiled statement impugning Trump’s religious commitment.  Donald struck back, as is his wont.  But Carson did something politicians rarely do.  He apologized, acknowledging that it was not for him to question another’s faith. Trump acknowledged that apology on his part, but could not resist a final ding, accusing the doctor of lacking “energy,” a characterization Donald often applies to Jeb Bush.

But is this true of Carson?  The opposite could be argued.  What takes more concentration and, yes, true energy than standing in the operating theatre with someone’s brain exposed, waiting for you to cut into it?  You better be paying attention. My own father, a pioneering radiologist, decided against becoming a surgeon because he didn’t think he could stand that pressure.

But does Carson have courage outside the operating room? Well, let’s see.  Wasn’t he the man who came to prominence taking on the president of the United States at the National Prayer Breakfast?

Nevertheless,  let’s give Donald the best of it and say Carson lacks “energy” because of the doctor’s laid-back style.  Where does this leave us?  According to Trump, Donald’s own goal is to Make America Great Again.  We’d all like to see that — or most of us.  But how is that accomplished and just what is it that was great about America?

Excuse my screenwriter roots, but I think many of us would point to old Hollywood movies to see what Hollywoodian Ronald Reagan called “the shining city on a hill,”  movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and High Noon, movies that painted America’s portrait to the world.  The heroes of those films, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) and Will Kane (Gary Cooper), were quiet, unassuming men.  But they had iron when they needed it.

Interestingly, the quintessentially American comic book heroes Superman, Batman and Spiderman are similar, superficially unassuming, even occasionally diffident men who don’t talk much and let their actions speak for them — more Carson than Trump. (Bruce Wayne has an upper-crust veneer but still… it’s about what he does, not what he says.)

Indeed, it’s not difficult to envision Ben Carson as a kind of Gary Cooper-type for our time, come to clean up America and return her to her former greatness.  The more humble he is in the process, the better, the more likely to succeed in the deepest sense.

This is particularly true given what I see are the two worst (of the myriad) sins of the incumbent — first, setting race relations back decades; and second, allowing the international structure to disintegrate the most it has since WWII with ISIS on the march and Iran now being presented with hundreds of billions to expand its global terrorist ways.

Of all candidates, Carson’s qualifications to handle the first of these disasters is unparalleled.  We know less of his qualifications for the second, but he says he has been boning up on foreign policy and (hello, Hugh Hewitt) he should be tested on that at the debate Wednesday.  My guess is that, unlike Donald Trump, Carson will know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah.

This is not to say I bear any enmity toward Trump.  On the contrary, his influence on the electoral season has been hugely positive on balance.  He has brought attention to a process that is often largely ignored.  But more than that, his focus on the immigration crisis has proven prescient, not just because of the murderous domestic behavior of illegal aliens (Fisherman’s Wharf, etc.) but because of the escalating migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East that is bound to hit our shores.  He has also spoken out definitively against the Iran deal.  Bravo, Donald!

I just think, however, that the time is ripe for Gary Cooper.  The bigger question is whether America is ready for him. Do we deserve Ben Carson if he is as moral a person as he appears to be?  Or will his political inexperience prove to be more important than some of us think? Is a decent man unfit to be president in the modern world?   We’ll have to wait to find out.   Meanwhile, let’s reprise an old song.


Co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media and PJTV, Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.  Among other publications, he was written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, City JournalNational Review and Commentary. His memoir Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown was published in 2011. He covers the election of 2016 at Diary of a Mad Voter.