The Carson Hour

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

Shakespeare, William (2015-05-29). Macbeth (Kindle Locations 1154-1156). . Kindle Edition.

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Up front: I’ve never been a fan of creationist Ben Carson. My mind can’t get past someone who puts aside known facts in favor of popular myth. I have been over this before. His notions about biological evolution are notorious:

Anyhow, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson has announced his candidacy for the office of President of the United States. And I must say that my joy is beyond description. Does that mean we will no longer hear the darndest things from Dr. Carson. Thank God, no:

Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins and the author of six best-selling books, rejected some of the fundamental tenets of Darwinian evolution as “incredible fairy tales,” asking how could “something come out of nothing” or “life evolve from non-life”? He also stressed that mutations in species tend to “degeneration,” not improvement, and emphasized that “there are no intermediate species” to support the theory of evolution.

Carson’s rejection of things known extends past biological science:

Carson was in California Tuesday last week and made the remarks in an interview with a San Francisco Chronicle reporter. His public position indicates a preference to expediency over reality:

“Whether we are experiencing global warming or a coming ice age, which was predicted the 1970s, we as responsible human beings must be concerned about our surroundings and what we will pass on to future generations. However, to use climate change as an excuse not to develop our God-given resources makes little sense. Expanding our wealth of energy resources, as well as encouraging development of new renewable energy sources, can provide an enormous economic lift with obvious benefits. But it can also bolster our role as a formidable player in the struggle for world leadership.”

His latest comments cement the observation that for this candidate facts are secondary. His statement “when you ask them to show the overwhelming science, they never can show it” is uncharacteristic of a person serious about the issue. California Governor Jerry Brown has come to Dr. Carson’s aid. He sent the candidate a letter along with a flash drive holding a quantity of the science “they never can show.” A serious voter will wonder whether candidate Carson is being sincere in his statements regarding the issues. To date I have seen no response from Carson or his organization.

The pattern is extensive. It paints the picture of a fact-averse individual, ensconced in a reality of his own making and apparently content to remain so. This is not recent history. His issues with fact go back at least 20 years, back to when he began to fabricate an image of his own liking. Parts of this image are sketched in his book Gifted Hands. It’s an autobiography, and it depicts a young man coming of age among the mean streets of Detroit and rising above expectations. A deeply religious person, Carson credits his relationship with God for steering his life to a higher plateau.

I have not finished reading the book, but a surface view reveals a panel of self-congratulation. Here is a person whose abilities have brought him to great heights, yet he feels the need to add the extra gloss. Examples abound, some of which fail verification. One concerns a possible scholarship to the United States Military Academy at West Point:

At the end of my twelfth grade I marched at the head of the Memorial Day parade. I felt so proud, my chest bursting with ribbons and braids of every kind. To make it more wonderful, we had important visitors that day. Two soldiers who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor in Viet Nam were present. More exciting to me, General William Westmoreland (very prominent in the Viet Nam war) attended with an impressive entourage. Afterward, Sgt. Hunt introduced me to General Westmoreland, and I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.

Carson M.D., Ben (2011-04-19). Gifted Hands 20th Anniversary Edition: The Ben Carson Story (Kindle Locations 887-891). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Some clarification may be in order. The only way anybody attends West Point is by a full scholarship. Nobody pays tuition to attend this prestigious school, the foundation of the United States Army’s officer corps. If ever Dr. Carson had been offered an opportunity to attend West Point it would have been by way of a full scholarship.

The problem is that Carson now backs off from his previous language. Let nobody misinterpret what appears in the book, he did not receive an official letter from the Academy offering him a scholarship. He now says the offer was less definite:

More recently, in a Facebook post in August, he responded to a question on whether he had been offered a spot at West Point by writing that he had been “thrilled to get an offer from West Point.”

But on Friday, Politico reported that according to West Point, Mr. Carson had never been accepted.

Mr. Carson, in a telephone interview Friday, described his offer as less formal.

“I don’t remember all the specific details,” he said. “It was, you know, an informal ‘with a record like yours, we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point.’ ”

Technically, West Point does not offer scholarships; it is free.

More specific, the entry on Wikipedia confirms my long standing impression of West Point’s admission procedure:

Candidates for admission must both apply directly to the academy and receive a nomination, usually from a member of Congress or Delegate/Resident Commissioner in the case of Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. Other nomination sources include the President and Vice President of the United States. Students are officers-in-training and are referred to as “cadets” or collectively as the “United States Corps of Cadets” (USCC). Tuition for cadets is fully funded by the Army in exchange for an active duty service obligation upon graduation. Approximately 1,300 cadets enter the Academy each July, with about 1,000 cadets graduating.

Yes, there is that nomination process. Sources listed above include the President and the Vice President, but I can assume somebody such as General Westmoreland could work mightily to get a candidate admitted. Readers of Carson’s book should not be left with the impression that he received any such nomination.

It would seem Dr. Carson wants to demonstrate a rise above his troubled youth. His book recounts obstacles he had to overcome. There is the stabbing incident:

In that instant blind anger— pathological anger— took possession of me. Grabbing the camping knife I carried in my back pocket, I snapped it open and lunged for the boy who had been my friend. With all the power of my young muscles, I thrust the knife toward his belly. The knife hit his big, heavy ROTC buckle with such force that the blade snapped and dropped to the ground.

I stared at the broken blade and went weak. I had almost killed him. I had almost killed my friend. If the buckle hadn’t protected him, Bob would have been lying at my feet, dying or severely wounded. He didn’t say anything, just looked at me, unbelieving. “I— I’m sorry,” I muttered, dropping the handle. I couldn’t look him in the eye. Without a word, I turned and ran home.

Carson M.D., Ben (2011-04-19). Gifted Hands 20th Anniversary Edition: The Ben Carson Story (Kindle Locations 727-733). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

It’s a shocking admission from someone of Carson’s distinction, and it reinforces his narrative relating a conquest of inner demons. A problem is this account fails all attempts at corroboration. Nobody from Carson’s youth can recall such an incident, and Carson refuses all assistance at verification. Reporters acting independently have canvassed people from Carson’s youth without success. The intended victim was a fellow ROTC member, a factor that would ordinarily facilitate identification. The corps in Carson’s school was small and cliquish. Nobody reports knowledge of this, and past acquaintances generally agree such a thing would have been uncharacteristic of the Ben Carson they knew.

Much is made of Carson’s claim that he attacked his mother with a hammer. My copy of the book is the 20th anniversary edition, and the story has changed in the intervening years. The word “hammer” does not appear anywhere in my copy. The only reference is this:

She took a step forward. “Listen, Bennie. We don’t always get what we want out of life.”

Heat poured through my body, inflaming my face, energizing my muscles, “I will!” I yelled. “Just wait and see. I will. I’ll—”

My right arm drew back, my hand swung forward. Curtis jumped me from behind, wrestling me away from Mother, pinning my arms to my side.

The fact that I almost hit my mother should have made me realize how deadly my temper had become. Maybe I knew it but wouldn’t admit the truth to myself. I had what I only can label a pathological temper— a disease— and this sickness controlled me, making me totally irrational.

Carson M.D., Ben (2011-04-19). Gifted Hands 20th Anniversary Edition: The Ben Carson Story (Kindle Locations 712-718). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I spent some time yesterday morning watching the CNN interview with Ben Carson. I made a DVD recording for future reference, and a number of highlights are worth noting. For the moment I’m taking the lazy way and pulling transcriptions of the interview compiled by other sources. From HuffPost Media:

On CNN’s “New Day” Friday, GOP candidate Ben Carson was strangely combative with hostAlisyn Camerota, who pressed him on a number of his recent controversial comments, including the claim that “many” Americans are stupid and that “we’d be Cuba if it weren’t for Fox News.”

“I did work at Fox for many years and I do have many friends there still who are are excellent journalists, but I’m not sure that even they think that without their reporting, we would be Cuba,” Camerota said in the segment. “You mean that if Fox News didn’t exist, we would be a communist country?”

Carson bristled at the question.

“There you go with sensationalism,” he snapped. “That’s what you try to do — you hope somehow that will resonate with people who don’t think for themselves.”

Yes, that’s much as I remember it. And I do have it on DVD. Yes, candidate Carson did say “we’d be Cuba if it weren’t for Fox News.” Distressingly, Camerota came back with the obvious response. We didn’t have Fox News for decades, and we were never Cuba, seeming to reinforce Carson’s own claim that many Americans are stupid and then leaving the impression he is an exemplar.

BenCarsonNewCNNPoll-01

Carson was back on the issue later in the day at a Florida media scrum:

Washington (CNN)Ben Carson spent much of Friday aggressively rebutting media reports about his past — a striking departure from the mellow personality he has displayed on the campaign trail.

“There is a desperation on behalf of some to try to find ways to tarnish me because they’ve been looking through everything, they have been talking to everybody I’ve ever known, everybody I’ve ever seen,” Carson told reporters at a media availability in Florida.

“‘There’s got to be a scandal. There’s got to be some nurse he’s had an affair with. There’s got to be something.’ They have gotten desperate,” Carson continued. “Next week, it will be my kindergarten teacher who said I peed in my pants. It’s ridiculous. But it’s OK because I totally expect it.”

This item recapped his earlier exchange with Camerota:

“This is a bunch of lies, that is what it is,” Carson told Alisyn Camerota when she asked about the report by Glover and Reston in which they spoke to people Carson grew up with. “This is a bunch of lies attempting to say I’m lying about my history. I think it’s pathetic, and basically what the media does is they try to get you distracted.”

Camerota pushed back on Carson’s argument that the reporters did not talk to people who knew him earlier than high school, but Carson rejected that and launched into an aggressive attack on the media. He accused the media of not scrutinizing President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to the same degree.

“The vetting that you all did with President Obama doesn’t even come close, doesn’t even come close to what you guys are trying to do in my case, and you’re just going to keep going back, ‘He said this 12 years ago’ — it is just garbage,” Carson said. “Give me a break.”

Pressing the search for the fountainhead of all this prevarication, sign posts are manifest:

On Wednesday, a 17-year-old video surfaced of Ben Carson claiming that the Old Testament figure Joseph built the Egyptian pyramids to store food.

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said in a 1998 commencement speech at Andrews University, unearthed by BuzzFeed. “Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big — when you stop and think about it, and I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time — to store that much grain.”

Social media quickly overflowed with scorn. Critics — and not just archaeologists — pointed to well-documented evidence that the structures were built as tombs, not granaries. Photos of pyramid burial vaults circulated on Twitter. Soon, Carson’s comments had become a meme with references to the food pyramid and “Stargate.”

Biological evolution is a hoax. Anthropogenic global warming is a hoax. Fox News keeps us from becoming Cuba. The Pyramids of Giza were built to store grain. The news media are the source of all these lies. The picture emerges of a fact-devoid personality.

I tend not to be as stridently anti-religion as some I know, but there are trip wires I keep in place. When a person promotes religious myth above reality, I begin to question every manner of his intellectual product. Presidential candidate Ben Carson has crashed all my barricades and has stepped, pants fully ablaze, from the world of make believe into the deadly serious world of government affairs. Few of his GOP rivals can match his disregard for fact, nor do they need to.

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Carson’s CNN interview Friday morning did not take up the full hour, but it will suffice. Else what Carson had to say about “some people” could sadly be true. Have we heard our last of candidate Carson? Likely not. Will we ever hear the last of the very public Ben Carson? I hope to God not. The Gift of the Magi was never so welcomely received as is the wisdom of Dr. Carson at my door. It is my fondest wish there will be more.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

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6 thoughts on “The Carson Hour

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