The Ben Carson Show (Interesting Pilot)

Ben Carson announces his candidacy for president during an official announcement in Detroit, Monday, May 4, 2015.  Carson, 63, a retired neurosurgeon, begins the Republican primary as an underdog in a campaign expected to feature several seasoned politicians.  (Photo: Paul Sancya)

This is going to be interesting.

As you might have heard, Dr. Ben Carson is running for president:

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson slammed “slick politicians” in both parties as he launched his bid on Monday for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, casting himself as a problem-solver whose experience sets him apart from the field.

Carson, a favorite of conservative activists, said the upcoming elections should bring in leaders with “common sense” to enact policies like reversing President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul and revamping the U.S. tax code.

“I’ve got to tell you something. I’m not politically correct, and I’m probably never going to be politically correct because I’m not a politician,” Carson said in a speech in Detroit, his hometown.

“Politicians do what is politically expedient, and I want to do what’s right,” he said.

Carson, who is 63 and the only black person currently seeking the nomination in either the Republican or Democratic parties, is a political neophyte. In polls of the Republican Party’s wide field of likely candidates, he currently gets about 4.8 percent of the vote, according to Reuters/Ipsos polls.


It is hard to know where to start. To the one, Dr. Carson presents the possibility of simply being yet another clown with delusions of the White House. Or maybe he is looking forward to book sales. Nonetheless, inasmuch as any candidate can tell us why he or she is running for office, a certain question sometimes remains, like, “But why are you running for office?”

Or, as Steve Benen notes:

A couple of months ago, retired far-right neurosurgeon Ben Carson acknowledged that the “learning curve of a candidate” can be daunting. The Republican presidential hopeful conceded he still has a lot to learn “in terms of becoming both a better candidate and a better potential president.”

But if he’s trying to brush up on the basics of how the U.S. government works, Carson clearly has quite a bit of ground to make up.

Yesterday on Newsmax TV, Ben Carson said that the federal government does not need to recognize a Supreme Court decision on gay marriage because the president is only obligated to recognize laws passed by Congress, not judicial rulings.

“First of all, we have to understand how the Constitution works, the president is required to carry out the laws of the land, the laws of the land come from the legislative branch,” Carson said. “So if the legislative branch creates a law or changes a law, the executive branch has a responsibly to carry it out. It doesn’t say they have the responsibility to carry out a judicial law.”

All of this, regrettably, was on video.

It is not so much that things only go downhill from there, but, rather, that they have been tumbling precipitously for a while.

And then there is this, a very delicate subject:

For many young African Americans who grew up seeing Carson as the embodiment of black achievement — a poor inner-city boy who became one of the world’s most accomplished neurosurgeons — his emergence as a conservative hero and unabashed critic of the United States’ first black president has been jarring.

Carson has been a black icon since 1987, when he became the first person to successfully separate twins conjoined at the backs of their heads. He was a rare and much-desired role model: a black man who became known for his intellect, not for telling jokes or shooting basketballs ....

.... Carson, 63, has become known more widely since using his speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast to offer a conservative critique of U.S. health-care and spending policies, while standing a few feet from President Obama.

In the ensuing months and years, Carson’s attacks grew sharper — deriding Obama’s signature health-care law as the “worst thing to have happened in this nation since slavery” and, in the pages of GQ, likening Obama to a “psychopath.” Carson’s 2014 book, “One Nation,” assails a decline of moral values in America and its government.


Look, it is inevitable that some will eventually wonder about the role Carson plays in the Republican Party. Like Alan Keyes before him, Carson seems to play a role intended to address some aspect of … er … okay, look, it’s like his job is to say things to make white Republicans feel better about societal injustice. Like, say, comparing the Affordable Care Act to slavery:

“You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson, who is African American, said Friday in remarks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”

Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon who was recently hired to be a contributor at Fox News, has stoked controversy with his remarks before. Earlier this year, he withdrew as graduation speaker at Johns Hopkins University amid demands from students concerned about his controversial remarks on gay marriage. Carson had mentioned bestiality and pedophilia while arguing against gay marriage in an interview.


There are a couple of things about the October, 2013 episode worth considering. First, obviously, is the nearly Godwinesque attack. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the question of what Republicans expect black voters to think. That is to say, does the RNC, or FOX News for that matter, think that black people will hear him say such things and accept it just because Dr. Carson is black? Because in setting aside the delicate question of why this or that particular comparison, we might pause to consider the sheer absurdity of the juxtaposition. The question has persisted; there is also the question of what Michael Steele’s chairmanship of the Republican National Committee was about, and namely because of the way Republicans treated him.

The question of how Dr. Carson relates to black voters seems inevitable, but to what degree is it in play? After all, there is nothing specific about the appearance of conservative exploitation. Why is this any different from sending Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN07) out to argue that women would resent equal pay for equal work, or her colleague Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC05) to thank the men for turning out to celebrate the anti-abortion cause?

But it really is the weirdest thing to watch. Because, meanwhile, here comes the Ben Carson Show, and our star actually seems woefully unprepared. This really is shaping up to be as infamous a campaign as something Alan Keyes would throw together.

“Has he lost his sense of who he is?” said the Rev. Jamal Bryant, a prominent black pastor in Baltimore, where Carson lived for decades when he was director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “He does not see he is the next Herman Cain.”


This is going to be very interesting.


Image note: Detail―Ben Carson announces his candidacy for president during an official announcement in Detroit, Monday, May 4, 2015. Carson, 63, a retired neurosurgeon, begins the Republican primary as an underdog in a campaign expected to feature several seasoned politicians. (Photo: Paul Sancya)

Stephenson, Emily. “Retired surgeon Carson slams ‘slick politicians’ in 2016 U.S. presidential bid launch”. Reuters. 4 May 2015.

Benen, Steve. “Carson runs into another ‘learning curve'”. msnbc. 7 May 2015.

Tapper, Jake. “Alan Keyes called me a racist”. Salon. 6 December 1999.

Tashman, Brian. “Alan Keyes Absolves Cliven Bundy Of Racism, Says Liberals Are The Real Racists”. Right Wing Watch. 25 April 2015.

Samuels, Robert. “As Ben Carson bashes Obama, many blacks see a hero’s legacy fade”. The Washington Post. 2 May 2015.

Sullivan, Sean. “Ben Carson: Obamacare worst thing ‘since slavery'”. The Washington Post. 11 October 2013.


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