Dr Ben Carson, faking it after he’s made it.

Dr Carson claimed to have been offered a “full scholarship” to West Point in your biography, a claim you’ve now retracted. I don’t know if I can buy enough Sharpies® to cover the untruths in his bio, or if I should tell the few remaining bookshops that have this work to simply retag those works as Fiction.

It’s worth reviewing the actual process for a potential cadet or midshipman getting into any of the US military academies. I’m aware of this because, before fully understanding the consequences of the existing “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies in place, and like a lot of trans folks I considered military service.

(Quick refresher, since most folks don’t know the military academies outside the Obligatorily Nationally Broadcast Sportsball Games They Tend To Not Win Because These Guys Are Training To Be Soldiers And Not Sportsballers: the schools are the US Military Academy, aka West Point; the US Naval Academy, aka Annapolis; the US Air Force Academy; and, to an extent, the US Merchant Marine Academy.)

screencap from US Military Academy website

For the 98% of Americans who aren’t associated directly with the Armed Forces, and for anyone seeking admission to the Merchant Marine Academy, entry into the schools depends on a recommendation by a Member of Congress.

Each representative, senator, delegate, etc. gets five recommendations per academy per year. A recommendation is hard enough to get, as one must show the official that one is capable of meeting the strict criteria of the academy in question.

Which brings the next point: these are some of the most selective enrollment schools in the country. Unlike other universities which look at grades, test scores (though, fortunately, with decreasing frequency), and extracurriculars, the military academies also look at physical fitness as well.

There are some serious perks to getting into these schools. The biggest one is that, assuming one completes the four year curriculum — which is always four years — one graduates with a guaranteed job as an O-1 (Ensign in the Navy, Second Lieutenant in the other branches) in the US Armed Forces. Upon completion of a five to 11 year service term, they will have “paid back” their education to the government, as well as have been employed with the benefits that come to being a member of the armed forces in the US. Even while in school, the students are members of the armed forces, and as such receive pay, though they receive a small portion in cash while the rest awaits completion of their studies.

Military academy graduates, along with Ivy Leaguers, tend to comprise a large number of C-level execs, political actors both in office and behind the scenes, and other folks in high places in Washington.

Which brings us back to Dr Carson. His actual accomplishments are astonishing. Why does he feel he needs to add glitter to an otherwise sparkling career?

Is it to try to pander to the troops? Saying that one is too good for bedrock military institutions (even if non-West Point troops have mixed thoughts on them) is not an effective way of doing so.

Is it because he feels insecure in his own story?

I think there’s much to be discovered that he doesn’t want to share. There’s signs of his ignorance on history, science, economics that are inexplicable. F

A president needs to be more than a slick package. They are our first ambassador, our first face to the world. If that face isn’t capable of being truthful about themselves, how can we trust them about anything?

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