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Whither Goes The Holy Candidate?

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Whither Goes The Holy Candidate?

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At the expense of spoiling all the fun, let’s get real about Dr. Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. Every four years, rural Iowa Republicans fall raptly in love with a bible-brandishing savior who vows to purge the nation of sin. In 2008 it was Mike Huckabee, in 2012 Rick Santorum.

Mr. Establishment, Mitt Romney, finished second both times.

In the general election, Iowa voters supported President Obama.

Soon after the New Hampshire primary, the holy candidate fades fast. Huckabee finished a weak third in New Hampshire, Santorum fourth with 9.5 percent of the vote. And that was basically the end of God’s self-anointed candidates.

Particularly in view of increasing evidence that key elements of Dr. Carson’s inspiring personal biography are imaginary or worse, there’s no reason to think that he will fare any better than Huckabee or Santorum. A bit like Bernie Sanders supporters, Carson fans have been slow to grasp that their party’s presidential nominee will need the votes of millions of “blue state” Republicans historically resistant to religious zealotry.

Indeed, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait makes a persuasive case that, quite like Huckabee, Carson isn’t actually running for president. Rather, his campaign is a for-profit organization.

“Conservative politics are so closely intermingled with a lucrative entertainment complex,” Chait writes “that it is frequently impossible to distinguish between a political project…and a money-making venture. Declaring yourself a presidential candidate gives you access to millions of dollars’ worth of free media attention that can build a valuable brand.”

The fact that Carson’s campaign evidently plows a reported 69 percent of its donations into further fund-raising may be a clue. Real political campaigns spend the bulk of their cash building an organization and advertising. Carson invests his loot in pyramid-like direct-mail and phone-spamming operations.

Freed of the time-consuming necessity of being president, Carson will be able to hire more ghost-writers, give inspirational speeches and peddle fundamentalist Christian DVDs to a rapt audience of millions. With any luck, he can market himself as a martyr to liberal media bias.

Even the books currently being dissected by reporters at the Wall Street Journal and Politico aren’t standard campaign biographies. They’re basically miracle fables, contemporary versions of John Bunyan’s 17th century classic Pilgrim’s Progress, mingling an allegory of divine salvation with the material rewards of the “American Dream.”

Now you’d think that Carson’s actual life story, rising from the Detroit streets to become a world-renowned pediatric brain surgeon, would be enough to warrant admiration. Mere reality, however, won’t suffice to cover the miraculous narrative of sin and salvation evangelical Christians have come to expect. Thus, Carson can’t simply have been raised a poor kid in a rundown ghetto, he has to have been a violent thug touched by God.

Similarly, Carson can’t just be a bright, hard-working scholarship student. He has to have been victimized by a professorial hoax and rewarded as the most honest student at Yale. That this screwball tale from his 1990 book Gifted Hands appears to have been inspired by a prank pulled by the college humor magazine makes it no more believable. Only that the roots of Carson’s magical thinking evidently lie deep in his past.

It would be interesting to know if friends and professional associates ever heard these whoppers previous to his book’s publication. Because brain scientists tend to be a skeptical lot. He did leave medicine somewhat early.

That said, it’s hardly unknown to encounter a physician, much less a neurosurgeon, with a God complex. The experience of holding life and death in one’s hands may have something to do with it. The Guardian newspaper has published a photo layout of Carson’s home — essentially a museum exhibit celebrating his greatness — that suggests an ego gone mad.

The man may actually believe, as he said recently on Meet the Press, that his candidacy represents a big threat to “the secular progressive movement in this country…because they can look at the polling data and they can see that I’m the candidate who’s most likely to be able to beat Hillary Clinton.”

Call me Mr. Worldly Wiseman, after the character in Pilgrim’s Progress who tries to steer Christian down the wrong road, but it says here that Democrats could never get so lucky.

The negative TV ads practically write themselves. Imagine a clip of Carson during a GOP debate indignantly denying a business relationship with Mannatech, the hinky diet supplement company, followed by another of him bragging that the company basically bought him an endowed chair at Johns Hopkins.

Actually, it’s mildly alarming living in a country where a crank like Carson commands any attention at all. Now me, I’d no more visit a physician who claimed that Satan inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution than I’d climb into an airline piloted by somebody who denied Newton’s Theory of Gravity.

But President of the United States?

Not a chance.

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Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate.

A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows.
Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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20 Comments

  1. Dominick Vila November 11, 2015

    I would not be surprised if Dr. Carson fades away into oblivion long before the Iowa caucuses. He satisfied his designated role, and demonstrated his ignorance of historical, scientific, and cultural issues. There is simply nothing else for him to accomplish as a Republican candidate to the nomination of his party.

    Reply
    1. charleo1 November 11, 2015

      I believe there is yet something Ben Cason can do for the Country. Add credibility to the growing theory that most of these Repugs in their own way, are much like Ben Carson, Little more than self promoting charlatans, and frauds. Dogs chasing cars, with no intentions of catching them, or any idea whatsoever to do with them if they did. The contest itself is an outrage that manages to insult the intelligence of the American public. That’s if the majority of the public were paying any attention at all.

      Reply
      1. Independent1 November 11, 2015

        That’s assuming of course (your last sentence) that there are really millions of American voters with enough intelligence to realize, even if told, that Carson has been scamming them. Somehow I have my doubts on that – there clearly seems to be millions of Americans without the intelligence to even discern reality. (Just look at the group of RWNJs that infests the NM blogs.)

        Reply
        1. Sand_Cat November 11, 2015

          Mark Twain said it’s much easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled. He was a fount of both wisdom and humor.

          Reply
          1. Jmz Nesky November 16, 2015

            Carson doesn’t have the brain power or fortitude to fool anyone, it’s the people who have fooled HIM into thinking he’d make a great president.. Idiots have no morals, they just follow their lunacies.. remember when they actually believed a prison inmate would have made a better president than Obama? THAT’S their mentality.. I laugh to peeing when I hear them say they’d vote for a cartoon character.. Those types ALWAYS vote for cartoon characters, ‘B’ movie actors, reality TV vultures and now a has-been brain pan prober. The lot of them are stale jokes that no logical thinking American finds humorous.

            Reply
      2. Independent1 November 11, 2015

        And if you haven’t seen this from the Daily Kos, you may find it of great interest.

        The 800 pound donkey in the GOP debate

        http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/11/10/1448387/-The-800-pound-donkey-in-the-GOP-debate?detail=email

        Reply
      3. Polana November 15, 2015

        The Republican Party is peddling misogyny, xenophobia and willful ignorance to the public for years and the xenophobic, misogynistic ignorant, plain stupid followers buying their crap. Unfortunately majority of Americans are that stupid.
        Benito must pass drug test – he is high as a kite. Most doctors are addicts.

        Reply
    2. Independent1 November 11, 2015

      Dominick, if you’re ever looking for an article with some statistics to prove how inept the GOP can be, here’s an articled from the Daily Kos you may find of interest:

      The 800 pound donkey in the GOP debate

      http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/11/10/1448387/-The-800-pound-donkey-in-the-GOP-debate?detail=email

      Reply
      1. Dominick Vila November 11, 2015

        Thanks! The statistics in this article highlight the reason the Republicans are determined to control the agenda – and the questions they are asked – during future debates. It also explains the reason they prefer to focus on illegal immigrants, abortion, gay marriage, Egyptian granaries, and Newton.

        Reply
        1. plc97477 November 15, 2015

          It also shows why the gotp need the help of god. (not capitalized for a reason)

          Reply
  2. Stuart November 11, 2015

    Almost 90 years after Elmer Gantry, people are still falling for Christian hucksterism.

    Reply
  3. Insinnergy November 11, 2015

    What disturbs me is that this guy is an obvious liar, fraud, and pretty much nuts (You can find quotes directly from the man himself that show this, including him contradicting himself, and openly lying about matters of public record…) yet he shows so much support in the polls.

    This is your real issue, America.
    There is a sizeable group of knuckle-dragging wingnuts who can observe this man talk for months, be at least peripherally exposed to numerous media stories contrasting these crazy things conveniently for them…. and still somehow think he’d make a good president.

    Reply
    1. JPHALL November 11, 2015

      Yeah. To some religion is more important than sense.

      Reply
      1. plc97477 November 15, 2015

        Or even sanity.

        Reply
    2. Bob Eddy November 15, 2015

      Hus support in the polls needs to be taken in context. He has about twenty percent of the Republican vote… Not only around thirty percent admit to being a Republican, thus all of this “ground swell is only about 6% of the populace…

      Reply
  4. fortunev November 11, 2015

    Every rethuglicon candidate is a disciple of PT Barnum. He of the “There’s a sucker born every minute” viewpoint of life. Fast forward a few decades and H.L. Mencken nails the modern version:
    Onsome great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach
    their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a
    downright moron.
    H. L. Mencken
    Again. For eight years the Rethug Shrub fit the bill exactly plunging the country into an unnecessary war and blowing a multi-trillion dollar Clinton surplus, leaving the country in a recession. The rethugs are determined to put another moran in the office to destroy President Obama’s great stewardship having cleaned the stable of mendacious crony political crap for the past 7 years. There’s a sucker born every minute.

    Reply
    1. Polana November 15, 2015

      How righ U R,
      He also said:
      “If politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner”
      “Freedom is the distance between church and state’
      Also Steven Weinberg said:
      “With or w/out religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things, that takes religion”

      The money power preys upon nation in times of peace and conspires against it in times of adversity. It’s more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endevour to prolong it’s reign by working uopn prejudice of the people until wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic is destroyed” A. Lincoln in his speech in 1863 when The National Banking Act was passed.

      Yes, it looks like the voters will pick another Moron, know nothing (Moro Rubio, ToroCruz,NuroBenito,Trumpfinito) for President.
      “Life is like a box of stupid Americans. You never know how stupid they are until they vote” Forrest Gump Mother

      “Be impeccable w/your words – speak w/integrity. Say only what U mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” Miquel Ruiz.

      Reply
  5. Nypapajoe November 15, 2015

    Jim Jones convinced 909 people to drink his Kool Aid with gusto, what has changed since this horrific tragedy! People are gullible and will continue to follow anyone who preaches biblical verses, and if they were to offer Kool Aid, they too will drink it! Carson is a pathetic joke who has a better chance of winning the power ball back to back before he’s elected to anything! What happened in Paris is another example and reminder of the dangers of religious zealotry!

    Reply
  6. pmbalele November 15, 2015

    Dr. Carson made one big mistake – injecting religion into politics. So has Huckabee.
    Once you mix religion and politics you lose a lot of Americans. Religious belief is what is causing the killings and chaos in the Middle-East and elsewhere in the world. Religion and faith should be personal. Carson has condemned Muslims never to be in the WH.
    Carson should remember condemning or ruling a country based on religious values
    is inviting problems in this Country. KKK groups believe in Christ as Savior. Still KKKs want to kill us Blacks. I believe those who wrote the Constitution saw the problems with religious beliefs. I am catholic. When young I was told non-Catholics would not be welcome into heaven. That means only us Catholics were eligible for heaven. And I believe that for years. But then scandals erupted in the Catholic Church. I then questioned whether all leaders in the Catholic Church were living to the call. Some failed. With that in mind I found that faith in the Creator should be personal and religious beliefs should never influence government policies. With that in mind I believe the Constitution should be our religion in this Country.

    Reply
  7. Kevin Leclerc November 15, 2015

    According to This Very Atheistic Article by The NATIONALMEMO, The United States of America, Is So UN-Godly !!! We Would Never, Ever Vote for Such A True Judaeo/Christian Man of Faith Such as This Brilliant Man, Dr. Ben Carson !!! ………… America… This was No Slap in the Face of Ben Carson,… or His Character !!! ….. It Was,However, A Big Slap In The Faces Of EVERY American Citizen… Past, Present and Future !!! What Would Our Forefathers Think and Say to US ? What Would Our Grandparents, Uncles, Cousins, Brothers and Sisters, Who Fought in These World Wars Say ? We All Know, They All Loved This Country !!! For They Fought For Us All !!! What Will We Tell Each Other on The Day After ? How Will We Explain This to Our Children, and Our Grandchildren ? If They Will Even Be here for An Explanation ? What Will Be Our Reasoning To God, The Almighty in The Day of Recompense ?…. We have A Lot To Discern on This, But We Can Not Be Complacent and Drag Our Feet thinking Long on This !!! God, and Time Stops For NO MAN !!! … GOD HAS CHOSEN BEN, BEN HAS REPLIED WITH A ” YES ” !!! HOW WILL VOTERS REPLY TO GOD ? <3 <3 Amen <3 <3 !!! !

    Reply

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