The Ben Carson Campaign: An Autopsy

Arthur  Schaper
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Posted: Mar 06, 2016 12:01 AM
The Ben Carson Campaign: An Autopsy

After three months of flat lining on life support, Dr. Ben Carson finally pulled the plug on his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

He should have pulled the covers over the campaign’s head and issued the death certificate after his dismal Iowa results, and especially after New Hampshire. He was already cutting costs, and was faring worse than Jeb Bush. After the first contest, Carson laid off half of his campaign staff. Still, despite even the clear stats—low polling numbers, even lower delegates—Carson was pushing, fighting the terminal illness of declining momentum. Electric paddles would not have revived the Dr. Ben movement. Pundits on Townhall, not just the elites of the Wall Street Journal or the trolls of Drudge Report, predicted this campaign’s death, even as the patient lay in the hospital bed, barely breathing, gasping for a few final moments of recognition.

What happened? How did this robust grassroots effort end up in the weeds?

The origins of this illness begin earlier, in 2013, at the National Prayer Breakfast where Dr. Ben hit the national scene. Carson does hold an incredible, celebrated record, both as a physician and a conservative mind. Faithful to his faith, and loving to all, Carson was the perfect surprise guest as keynote speaker at the event.

What stood out? A black conservative offered a respectable, well-received chiding of President Obama’s policies and the embittered partisanship he helped create. He read from the Bible, he talked about his diligent, determined mother. He offered a sound reform on taxes: 10 percent from everyone. Before I knew about his stellar speech at the breakfast, Republican friends of mine in Redondo Beach, CA told me all about this man, and how he told off Obama’s horrific policies.

I later watched the entire speech and was very impressed.

Like many enthusiastic conservatives, I believed that Dr. Ben Carson could be presidential material. In those days, every Republicans was looking for, hoping for anybody who had lived a life of hope and change, rather than campaigning and organizing communities on those ideas.

With all of this in mind, let’s now consider the welcome adage of another doctor, Ben Johnson, when describing a possible visit to the theater: “Worth seeing, but not worth going to see.” And those were my thoughts when California friends of mine invited me to meet the good doctor in Nevada five months ago. It would be nice to meet the man, but not enough to shift my schedule and devote an entire day to a few campaign events.

Yes, Carson would have been worth seeing in the White House as President. His getting there, the campaign to get elected was not worth seeing. The political savvy, plus experience and ideological rigor needed to compete, Carson never demonstrated. Same with Scott Walker, as well as Bobby Jindal and to a lesser extent Carly Fiorina. Carson was not ready for the national, unprecedented kind of prime-time scrutiny. Skills in the operating room are commendable, along with writing, speaking, and running charities.

Running for President is a lot more complex, requiring a well-harnessed finesse to overcome arbitrary setbacks and media frenzies. This country needs more than Patch Adams to patch up the massive political health problems afflicting the body politic. Only a well-organized machine, principled yet driven, working over the media will prevail in our times. The juggernaut is not for everyone, and quoting Scriptures will not part the ready sea of voters looking for leadership, bold, brash and brazen.

Carson resisted taking strong stances on race issues. His understanding of economics and other cultural issues exposed a widening divide between a good man who should be president and a politician unfit to run for the office. He would speak boldly, but then take back his words. Carson was not the gifted word-surgeon who could communicate without cluttering up his premises.

Further findings from the Dr. Ben autopsy reveal wasted time, resources, and dollars. Carson spent ten times as much on consultants as on flyers, media, grassroots activities, plus GOTV. His supporters can blame Ted Cruz for lying about a possible suspension of the campaign (No, Ted did not lie, so let’s put that false report to rest).

One fellow conservative here in Torrance, a black woman who wanted Condoleezza Rice to run for president, never settled on Carson for one simple reason: “He’s too nice.” The rough and terrible consequences of the Obama Administration, plus the full contact rabble-rousing of the Trump-mentum further spelled doom for the Carson Campaign. Yes, we want leaders who can be gentle as a dove—when needed. But in the hard-core, brass knuckles game of politics, you need to be wise as a serpent.

Carson talked about the necessity for a leader to demonstrate wisdom, yet this appeal never invigorated his campaign. When foreign policy issues, particularly terrorism following the Paris massacre last year, Carson’s political heart-rate dropped considerably. From there, his campaign grew weaker and weaker. Despite the unintended boost from a trashy Politico hit piece, Carson never really mastered the media game. So much so, that at his last debate, Carson begged for someone to attack him.

Why strangle a dying man in his bed, when he poses no threat to you in the first place? Republican hospice assistants were already preparing the bed for the next casualty of the Election 2016 Republican Presidential primary.

Dr. Ben Carson is a fine man, a refined professional, and worthy mind for a political career. Supporters have suggested he run for U.S. Senate (Maryland is still available, or perhaps Florida?).  As for his presidential campaign, Carson’s inexperience initiated a malignant lethargy, which metastasized into the inevitable demise of his Presidential bid.