Although only one Republican has officially announced his candidacy for president so far, it looks like a formidable, diverse field of conservatives will be contending in the primaries. One prospect, however — and a popular one at that — has me utterly nonplussed, and questioning whether conservatives actually want to win the White House ever again. Allow me to paint a picture for you.
Ignoring a major conservative critique of candidate Barack Obama — his lack of experience requisite to the presidency — this would-be candidate believes that “political experience doesn’t seem to help a whole lot and perhaps may be hurtful.” (Coincidentally, he has no political experience.)
He thinks the Second Amendment should be applied, well, selectively, that owning certain types of guns should depend on where you live. He “would rather you not have” a semi-automatic weapon if you live in a city, for example. (And 5 million NRA members would rather you just stopped right there, please.)
His knowledge of Israeli politics, of particular importance to many Republicans and especially now, is so shallow that he recently suggested — to an actual Israeli person — that Israel’s current system of government sounds too complex, and so “why don’t they just adopt the system we have?”
He admits he only joined the Republican Party because he is planning to run for office. Inspiring stuff, right?
Nevertheless, Ben Carson is inexplicably a crowd favorite among many conservatives, finishing fourth (out of 17) in the 2015 CPAC straw poll. He also polled second to Gov. Scott Walker amongst Republican voters in a PPP poll from last month. And lest you think these polls are meaningless, he's turned them into hard cash and plenty of it. The Draft Carson Super PAC has raised over $13 million.
In case you’ve never heard of him — he’s also made news for defending Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back who punched his wife, and for regularly comparing Obamacare to slavery and America to Nazi Germany — Ben Carson is an actual medical doctor, and a gifted one at that. He is well known for performing the first successful separation of conjoined twins at the head.
At last year’s national prayer breakfast, Carson decided to embarrass the president, who was sitting mere feet away, with a rousing polemic against Obamacare. It was a stunt that, despite being pretty unseemly given the setting, conservatives went wild for. A star was born.
But instead of using his newfound fame to, I don’t know, raise money to cure pediatric cancer or even help draft better healthcare legislation, Carson decided he might like to be the next leader of the free world. And why not? He is a neurosurgeon, after all.
Carson will tell anyone who listens how smart and accomplished he is. In a recent profile in GQ he boasted about the high school in Detroit that’s named after him and acknowledged his own impressive background, which he’s just been waiting for the media to finally discover. But for someone so smart, it’s hard to imagine dumber stuff coming out of a doctor’s mouth than the nonsensical pap he’s recently uttered … out loud, to members of the media, who have a habit of writing stuff down and then sharing it with others.
He told Chris Cuomo on New Day that homosexuality must be a choice “because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.”
And in that GQ article, he says he can tell President Obama is a “psychopath,” because he is well dressed.
Carson’s hardly the only smart guy who thought he could solve complex social problems without really thinking hard about them. (Michael Bloomberg, after all, tried to end obesity by banning large sodas.) But I’m worried that my fellow conservatives don’t seem to care all that much that Carson is neither politically curious nor especially conservative. Is it really enough that he’s a black doctor who stuck it to the president? If so, that’s pretty sad.
His popularity is particularly vexing considering we have actual contenders — good candidates with real experience who don’t think they should be president just ’cuz. Ben Carson’s arrogance and ignorance are dangerous, and conservatives should be offended, not aroused, by his cavalier attitude toward the political problems that affect our daily lives. So let’s get serious, guys. We’re better than this.