Ben Carson is a good example of what happens when a really smart guy takes the Bible a little bit too seriously.
The good Doctor Carson is, of course, one of the “outsiders” (read: amateurs) running for the Republican nomination in 2016. He is the author of a rather remarkable resume. Born in Detroit, Michigan, Carson is the son of a Seventh-day Adventist minister. Carson attended Southwestern High School in Southwest Detroit where he excelled in JROTC, a program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces. He quickly rose in rank and was offered an appointment to West Point. He subsequently graduated from Yale University, and then attended the University of Michigan Medical School, where he got his M.D. Carson completed his residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and then became a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. At 33, he became the youngest major division director in the hospital’s history as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Carson specialized in traumatic brain injuries. In 1987, Carson was the first doctor to successfully separate conjoined twins, who had been joined at the back of the head.
Carson came to the larger attention of the political world when he was the keynote speaker at the February 7, 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. The speech garnered Carson considerable attention because he was critical of the philosophy and policies of President Barrack Obama, who was sitting 10 feet away. Prior to that Carson had written a number of books published an international Christian media company, including an autobiography, and two books about his personal philosophies of success. Carson also joined The Washington Times as a weekly opinion columnist in 2013, and he also wrote for American CurrentSee, an online publication for conservative African-Americans.
Especially compared with Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina, and even Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, Ben Carson seems like a nice man. Misguided, but nice. One gets the impression that there is some compassion in him, which is more than I can say for the other four.
Even so, let’s be clear about one thing:
- The Republican party is not going to nominate an African-American surgeon, however impressive his resume may otherwise be, as its nominee for the Presidency. (Just like Herman Cain before him, he may yet become the flavor of the month, and could even lead the polls for awhile.)
- After having elected a (half) African-American twice, there is also no way that the American electorate will put another African-American into the Oval Office, especially in the current racial climate.
Carson has said some interesting things in the past. For example, in 1992, Carson wrote that aging and technological advancement will eventually lead to many people surviving their 100th birthdays. He then questioned the merits of prolonging life, citing the fact that “up to half of the medical expenses incurred in the average American’s life are incurred during the last six months of life.” Of course, he’s backed away from those comments in recent months because that’s much too politically sensitive territory for conservative Americans.
One thing he has not yet backed away from is his comments on Islam. During an interview on September 20 with Chuck Todd from Meet the Press, Carson was asked about his views on whether a person’s faith should be considered by voters during an election. Carson said, “I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.” When asked by Todd whether Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson said: “No, I don’t — I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Carson did not back away from that a few days later when he said that said that he “absolutely” stood by his comments about not supporting a Muslim president, while also clarifying that he was “referring to Muslims who had not rejected Islamic Sharia law.”
A few days later Carson was opining that he “could support a Muslim who denounces Sharia Law.”
A few days after that CNN reported that money was “pouring” into Carson’s campaign because of what he had said about Muslims.
The Republicans are really working hard to be the party of racists and bigots. I guess they really want to alienate the minority vote more than they already have, so that they can guarantee that their standard bearer won’t be elected President. Although they will have a lot of white middle-aged yahoos electing their members to Congress in states like Kansas and Arkansas and Idaho and Missouri. And Texas, until the demographics change in Texas.
Here’s the funny thing: I can even understand some of Carson’s unease about electing Muslims to the Presidency. But then, I’m uneasy whenever a man (or maybe someday a woman) of God is elected to the Presidency, regardless of their faith. Like George W. Bush, for example.
Some of you will remember that John F. Kennedy had to deal with this issue as the first party nominee who was Catholic. Kennedy is still the only Catholic who was ever elected President.
But my unease comes from my concerns about how religiosity muddles the thinking of otherwise very bright people, like our good Dr. Carson. Republicans aren’t motivated by that concern. What most of them are motivated by his just old-fashioned racism.
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The always entertaining Andy Borowitz recently posted a nice item about how Ben Carson is “shattering the stereotype about brain surgeons being smart.” See: http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/ben-carson-shattering-stereotype-about-brain-surgeons-being-smart