The Scandals of Ben Carson

Some of the big media have lately trained their sights on retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, and thus far we are unimpressed by the effort. If the latest scandals are the best they can come up with, we have to conclude that Carson has led a more blameless life than most of us.
The Cable News Network came up with a damning report that Carson was consistently nice and studious as a boy. This is apparently damning because in his autobiography Carson wrote that in his early childhood years he was afflicted with an occasionally violent temper, and he even admitted attacking a friend with a knife and his mother with a hammer, before his own revulsion toward himself led to an epiphany and an intense period of prayerful meditation that allowed him to overcome it. Because CNN was unable to locate any eyewitnesses to these events, and instead interviewed several childhood friends who only recalled his more usually placid boyhood, they naturally concluded that the formerly sweet-natured and well-behaved boy somehow grew up to be a pathological liar whose ruthless rise to power must be stopped by any means necessary. Even the rest of the big media were unimpressed, however, so we except the report will have little effect and we won’t see many more stories about what a nice boy Carson used to be.
The rest of the big media seem to have higher hopes for a story that ran in Politico, whose first headline gloated that Carson’s suddenly highly-scrutinized autobiography “fabricated” a story about him being offered a scholarship to West Point. Some semantic hair-splitting makes this scandal possible, as one must apply for admission to West Point to be accepted, which Carson’s autobiography frankly admits he did not do, and these days the military academies do not talk of “scholarships” to describe the fully-paid tuition and room and board and stipends that come in exchange for admission the schools and the promise of two years of following military service, even though they did at the time Carson was writing about, and it seems Carson might have misremembered the date of the dinner he had with Gen. William Westmoreland as a reward for his exceptional performance in the Detroit public schools’ Reserve Officers Training Corps program, so of course the media are frothing. Carson plausibly claims that because of his stellar record he was assured by military men ranging from Westmoreland to the local ROTC commanders that he would be granted the tuition-free admission to West Point if he did apply, which he reasonably understood to mean that he was being offered a scholarship, and until all those big media are able to disprove it we’ll assume that he’s more likely accurate about the matter than they.
There are also the retired neurosurgeon’s views on Egyptology to be considered, of course, and much of the big media are predictably aghast. Carson’s recent rise to the top of the polls has brought such scrutiny that someone came up with a 1998 commencement address at a college affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in which he speculated that one of the pyramids may have been built to store the grain being saved for the seven-year drought prophesied by Joseph, so all the Republicans-are-religious-nuts stereotypes are immediately in play, and the New York Post piled on with a photograph of a portrait that some obviously amateur friend painted of Carson and Jesus together, and Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism is no doubt the next line of attack. None of which strikes us as all that scandalous. Egyptology is a matter of merely arcane interest to us, we rather like a candidate willing to defy the consensus of almost any scientific or historical field these days, the biblical account of Egypt’s seven years of plenty and seven years of famine contains such time-honored wisdom that it’s not out of the question it is also historically accuracy, and only us religious nuts seem to put any stock such time-honored wisdom these days, so we’re heartened to see one running for president. Whatever the theological quirks of Seventh-Day Adventism, they aren’t so anti-scientific that they prevented Carson from becoming the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and we’ll take it his word for that the denomination made it possible.
The famously soft-spoken Carson was somewhat more full-throated during a press conference clash about these matters with the big media, and rightly objected to a seeming double-standard regarding the autobiographies of Republican and Democratic candidates. He noted the relative lack of interest about the composite girlfriend and other dubious details in ’08 candidate Barack Obama’s wildly praised memoirs, or how the drugged and drunken teenager who admitted to be wound up in an Ivy League school, or his twenty years of attendance at a church where an anti-semitic and anti-American minister prayed for America’s damnation, and that’s not something we associate with Seventh-Day Adventism, so we think he made a fair point. He could have noted the similar lack of outrage about presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s exaggerations about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia and her outright lies about the nature of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi and her countless other prevarications, but we guess he’s saving that for a general election. The pushback will likely play well with the Republican voters who will decide the nomination, who are by now fed up with the double standard, and he seems to have picked up a lot of donations as a result, which will come in handy, so he seems to have won this exchange.
We’re still not sold on Carson’s candidacy, as we’d prefer a more seasoned politician to be president at this perilous moment in the country’s history, but thus far the attacks make us all the more convinced of his admirable character.

— Bud Norman

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