Ben Carson’s Betrayal
For the rest of his life, Ben Carson will be told by his former supporters that they are disappointed in him. Not all of his supporters will feel this way, but there will be enough for him to forever regret his presidential endorsement of Donald Trump on March 11, 2016. Unlike Mr. Trump, this criticism will actually stick to Dr. Carson and it will hurt him. He will feel this pain like a dull ache in the pit of his stomach every time a grey-haired grandma has the chance to express her sadness for his decision. He will also correctly suspect that for every supporter who says this to his face, there is a high, unknowable number of supporters who feel the same way. He will simply never hear from them and he will certainly never receive another donation from them.
Disappointment in politicians is nothing new. Actually, we’re all quite used to it. It’s going to be surreal for us if one of these politicians ever goes to Washington and actually fulfills his campaign promises. Carson’s endorsement of Trump, however, goes well beyond disappointment. “Disappointment” is for Scott Brown, John Roberts and every other public official who turns out to be something different than what they were hyped to be. Do you remember the Republican celebration when Chris Christie became the governor of New Jersey? There was GOP jubilee! I mean…there was a span of at least 5 minutes when we allowed ourselves to believe that northeastern politics was moving in the right direction. Well, that balloon popped a long time ago when Christie proved to be a liberal in Republican clothing…and how did we feel about it? We were disappointed.
Carson was never my first choice, but I greatly admired and respected him for his integrity and his extraordinary life. He quickly would have received my vote and my loyalty if my first choice had dropped out. I cringed every time the media attacked him. I was angered by the ongoing smears from reporters like Kyle Cheney at Politico. His disdain for Carson was blatant and unrelenting.
I wasn’t alone in coming to his defense. The problem with defending Carson, however, is that he needed to be defended too often. No reporter could do as much damage to Carson as he did to himself. His campaign was a mess. An old friend of his was making media appointments for him that his campaign managers hadn’t approved of. Key members of his staff were quitting. He made unnecessary, distracting comments about slavery, the Holocaust, the Big Bang Theory, gayness, Obama’s white childhood, mass shooters, the Egyptian pyramids and Muslims celebrating 9/11 destruction. The media quickly realized that Ben “rabbit-trail” Carson would talk about any random topic they desired…all they had to do was ask him about it.
These blunders created a cloud of doubt as to whether or not he was up to the challenge of running for president. If it’s so easy to trip him up while there are 5 to 10 other Republicans in a primary election, how will he survive in a general election when all of the media’s venom is pointed at him? In spite of this doubt, his supporters kept on supporting him. His campaign took in tens of millions of dollars, most of which was from small donations. They all knew he wasn’t a polished politician with a prepared answer for every question. They knew wasn’t aware of global issues, having focused and dedicated his life to his medical practice and serving his patients. And it was clear to all that he lacked the politician’s skill of answering questions without really answering them. Carson’s supporters stayed by his side in spite of his obvious lack of preparation for the job.
The reasoning for this continued support, in spite of Carson’s many flaws as a candidate, was that he’s an honest man of integrity who’s seeking a position that has lacked integrity for some time. Does he understand all the nuances of Middle Eastern politics? Probably not. Does he have a plan to boost the economy and restore jobs to America. Maybe. Will he position us around the world to defeat ISIS? Who knows? There’s no way to look at his experience to guess how he would tackle these issues. But at the very least, we were assured that he’s a good man who’s not going to put his own interests above the interests of the nation. After all, Carson already has a successful career behind him. He’s already well-respected and he has plenty of money. He could have continued writing books and making appearances to offer his calm, civilized perspective on several topics. He could have continued engaging with his growing number of followers and admirers who’ve been starving for a righteous leader. So therefore we had every reason to believe he was entering politics with the purest of motives.
On November 13, 2015, 130 innocent people were killed in Paris by Islamic terrorists. Whether he realized it or not, Carson’s campaign also died that night. There was something about the intense tragedy of the slaughter and the subsequent fear and anger which shifted the Republican primary race. Carson had been leading in the polls, but after that night, there was suddenly a lack of tolerance for the soft-spoken tones that Carson is known for. The American people were mad and they wanted their Presidential candidates to be mad. Three weeks later, Islamic terror struck again in San Bernardino, California, ending the lives of 14 innocent Americans. The outrage went beyond a fever pitch. Primary voting was still two months away, but Carson faded in the polls as Trump and Cruz surged. Republican voters didn’t mind Carson tagging along for the ride, but it was time for someone else to take the wheel.
From the backseat, Carson continued to say things. Surrounded by media who specialize in twisting words and reporting with a liberal bias, Carson made it easy for them, awkwardly commenting on one random topic after another. They processed him through the usual grinder, making him look like a fool in spite of his proven accomplishments. This was combined with the chaos and negative reports from the Carson campaign, which diminished confidence in his leadership and management skills.
After the first primary votes were cast on February 2nd, the corpse of Carson’s dead campaign began to smell. By this time, the media had already refocused their targets onto Ted Cruz, who became the front-runner after winning the Iowa primary. CNN led the effort to smear Cruz as a cheater, accusing him of spreading the false report that Carson had dropped out of the race. Trump capitalized on the media’s smear by calling Cruz a liar. To the disappointment of many conservatives like myself who were already hoping for Cruz and Carson to unite to stop Trump, Carson took the bait and began to accuse the Cruz campaign of “dirty tricks.”
It didn’t help. Carson proceeded to lose badly in one primary after another, coming in last place or close-to-last in the first 15 states. His debate performances became an embarrassment, totally lacking in the sharp focus and clarity that is essential in 2016 politics. He was often described as “sleepy” or accused of making viewers sleepy with his slow, soft talk. Somehow, Dr. Carson was the last person in the country to realize his campaign was flatlining. He finally pulled the plug on March 4th. At this point, support for Carson had seriously waned…not because he was losing primaries, but because his continued presence in the race was preventing better candidates from getting enough votes to stop Trump. If Carson would have dropped out before March 1st (Super Tuesday), it’s reasonable to conclude that Cruz would have won Arkansas and Rubio would have won Virginia. Instead, Trump won both states and several more.
That first week in March, Marco Rubio and John Kasich continued the role of dividing the conservative vote in several states, handing Trump the victory in some important contests. Carson was quickly forgotten in the media frenzy of the election and wall-to-wall coverage of everything Trump did, said and tweeted. Trump continued to exemplify the “lack of civility” in politics that Carson complained about. It was therefore shocking to me on the night of March 10th to hear that Carson would be endorsing Trump the following day at a rally in West Palm Beach.
It was in that moment when I realized that Dr. Carson was no longer simply disappointing us. He was no longer simply in the way and embarrassing himself, no longer just losing the support and admiration of his base of supporters. No…it was much worse than that. His endorsement of Trump was nothing short of betrayal. For those who supported him in 2015 and contributed to his campaign, how else can his endorsement be perceived? Thousands of donors gave him tens of millions of dollars to become a candidate who is the opposite of Trump…namely, the Anti-Trump; a principled, civilized, decent man of character who would not be moved by political winds. His complete lack of political skills was forgivable if only he would continue to be what we believed he was…a man of integrity.
By throwing his support behind Trump, he has essentially thrown away the respect of many supporters who will never trust him again. How could they? He endorsed the one candidate that he could not endorse. Good men do not endorse despicable men. And if there is any truth to the reports that Carson was promised a role in the Trump administration in exchange for his endorsement, that makes it even worse. I’ve heard someone try to justify this strategy, saying that Carson wants to have influence, even if it’s from a platform as corrosive as a Trump presidency. Men of integrity do not make these kinds of deals.
The truth is that Dr. Carson had a great deal of influence, but now it’s gone. He had the kind of support and respect that politicians dream of; the backing of followers who believed in him, giving him the benefit of the doubt, despite his flaws. The people who are praising him now are not the same people who supported him in 2015. He now has a whole new breed of supporters, a rabid legion of poor souls who will believe whatever Trump tells them to believe. When he called Carson “pathological” in November and compared him to a child molester, they believed it. They followed his lead and trolled Carson’s social media posts with deplorable comments. But all that has changed now. They now accept him because Trump accepts him…at least, for now.
The irony of endorsing Trump to defeat Clinton is that he’s the one Republican candidate who cannot and will not defeat her…and it’s not even close. She currently has a 10 point lead over Trump while Cruz vs. Clinton is predicted to be a much closer race in which Cruz could possibly win. When Trump is defeated, whether in June at a contested Republican convention or in November in the general election, Trump will retreat to his next celebrity effort. Trump will be even more popular and unaffected by all of this. Carson, on the other hand, will be out of work. The roar of supporters that used to follow him will be reduced to crickets. His books will not sell and the crowds will be gone. Trump’s trolls will have already forgotten about him. And those who truly admired and respected him will be all the more hurt and defensive…having been burned once again by another man they thought they could trust.
No one can take away from your many accomplishments, Dr. Carson. You are certainly worthy of respect for the life you’ve lived, your medical success and the good you did before 2016. But the damage you’ve done in this race is incalculable and devastating. We needed your wisdom and steady hands in this election to help our nation to start healing and recovering…but instead you endorsed the cancer which threatens us.
Originally posted March 15, 2016 (link)