Opinion

Ben Carson Is Finished – The One-Time Republican Frontrunner Continues His Free Fall

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Ben Carson Is Finished – The One-Time Republican Frontrunner Continues His Free Fall

Ben Carson has had a great run. He has no experience, no knowledge of the issues, and no real inclination to learn the things he has to learn in order to run for office. In every debate so far, he’s embarrassed himself with meandering non-answers. Oftentimes it’s not clear Carson even understands the question he’s been asked, and that’s pretty much the case across topics.

Remarkably, none of that has mattered in this race. Carson has slithered his way to the top of the polls in recent months, and he appeared well-positioned at least until the Iowa caucuses. Carson’s only real competition thus far has been Trump. And the leading “establishment” candidate at this point is Rubio, who remains roughly seven points behind Carson in most of the polls.

But things have changed.

It appears the recent terrorist attacks in Paris have awakened GOP primary voters from their slumber – well, sort of. And that’s bad news for Carson, who just had one of his worst weeks as a presidential candidate. In case you missed it, Carson stumbled last week when he mistakenly claimed that China was militarily involved in Syria. He then failed to name the nations he would ask to join a coalition against ISIS.

Things spiraled further out of control for the retired neurosurgeon when his own foreign policy adviser questioned his understanding of and interest in the issues. “Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of information about the Middle East,” said Duane R. Clarridge, a chief adviser to Carson’s campaign. Clarridge added that “Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so ‘we can make him smart.’’’

Even in a party that devalues experience and champions know-nothingism, this is a potential death knell for Carson’s campaign.

The attacks in Paris, for better or worse, have pushed national security and foreign policy to the top of the Republican agenda. Discussions about ISIS and Syria and Iraq will dominate the debate for the foreseeable future. Carson sounds like a fatuous gasbag on virtually all topics save for neuroscience, but he’s especially bad on foreign policy.

And his numbers are starting to reflect that.

A NBC poll released last week shows that Trump has solidified his frontrunner spot in the wake of Paris, mostly because of his openly fascistic calls to surveil Mosques, reinstate waterboarding, and register all Muslims in a “database.” Carson, however, who was tied with Trump as recently as two weeks ago, has dropped 8 points and is now tied with Ted Cruz at 18 percent.

Thinks look worse for Carson in Iowa, where his evangelical base is most concentrated. A report by Politico over the weekend confirms that Carson is in trouble. The terror attacks have changed the conversation, and Carson is the obvious loser. “He’s a great guy, he’s fun to listen to, but I didn’t hear anything substantive,” said one Iowa-based GOP voter, who now ranks national security as an “extremely high” priority.

Another Iowa Republican said recent events have caused her to pivot from Carson to Cruz. “’He [Cruz] has experience, he’s shown what he can do. With the state of affairs we’re in right now, I think it is very important. It’s vital…We need someone who knows the ropes, who’s not the establishment but who doesn’t need on-the-job-training.”

Even Steve King, a prominent Iowa conservative who endorsed Cruz last week, has echoed this theme:

“They’ll often say, all politics are local, politics are domestic, domestic politics will elect the next president. I’m not sure that’s right. Not when you see the pictures of the bodies in places like Paris and around the world…When we see that…that makes a candidate that’s strong on foreign policy, strong on national defense…that makes that candidate stronger. Being [from] outside the Beltway doesn’t help with that. Being inside the Beltway, as long as you’re not ruled by that, I think does help.”

Carson’s downward slide is likely to continue in the coming weeks. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and it’s too late to pretend otherwise. Unlike Trump, who at least has an obnoxious but successful tough guy shtick, Carson’s nice guy routine won’t play well in this political climate.

All of this is great news for Ted Cruz. Cruz doesn’t have any meaningful foreign policy experience, but he is an active U.S. Senator and, more importantly, he’s quite good at sounding like he knows what he’s talking about. His rhetorical gifts will serve him well in this debate. Cruz can pander to Christians as well or better than Carson, and he knows it. Having some actual experience as a politician will make him far more appealing to conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere who want their foreign policy bravado served with a dash of religious lunacy.

As it happens, this is Cruz’s specialty.

By Sean Illing / Salon
CF/GA

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1 Comment

  1. Michael

    November 24, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    There is no nor should there be any surprise about Ben Carson’s political implosion in the Republican presidential race. From the outset, it was very clear to me and any one who would listen to his comments and analyses ( if they can be called that) of the issues whether its immigration, gun violence or the terrorist attack in Paris that the guy not only lacked political depth but more importantly he was uninformed and ignorant about national and global issues.

    Evidently as a trained neurosurgeon, he confined himself perhaps a little too much to his field of specialization and did very little reading even of American newspapers and readily available books and other materials on the issues. Unfortunately, he is probably a victim of a well entrenched bad habit whereby too often professionals in one field tend not to read and inform themselves sufficiently about the issues and challenges in other fields. The latter parochialism is very common for example between physical scientists and social scientists where typically each group tend not to trend beyond their ” expertise” or “area of interest.” This it is unusual to find a sociologist showing an unlimited interest in biology and physics and vice versa. Indeed, the parochialism is even worst even within the two broadly defined sciences in that it is frequently unusual to find physicists showing too much interest in zoology and vice versa just as it is unusual to find economists showing too much interest in political science or anthropology.

    My thinking is that Dr. Carson as an accomplished neurosurgeon in par may have fallen victim to this same parochialism by closing himself off from reading and studying writings by political scientists, economists, climate scientists, journalists and other who study and write about the national and international issues that are being played out and debated in the presidential campaign. Perhaps if Dr. Carson had read more beyond his field of specialization he would have been not only more informed about the unfolding issues in the campaign but he would have been able to challenge more effectively the blatant racism and xenophobia of his fellow Republicans particularly the openly narcissistic and racist Trump.

    Furthermore, Carson’s apparently growing demise in the polls is not only a function of his ignorance on the issues as indicated by at least one of his top foreign policy advisers but also at play is his own very rigid so-called conservative political ideology on all the pertinent issues of the day in the campaign. He like Trump and man, maybe most of the other Republican candidates subscribe or at least appear to subscribe to what maybe called conservative lunacy or conservative crack-potism in their desire to appease an increasingly racist, homophobic , climate change denying, xenophobic, islamophobic and government hating political base.

    As such, Carson who I believe is otherwise a smart guy has shackled himself into this very right wing ideology that leads him to say utterly stupid things like he would oppose any Muslim to be president of the US or comparing Obamacare to slavery, his opposition of the minimum wage, his call for ending Medicaid or his multiple other uninformed and extremely outlandish statements largely designed to impress the hopelessly dumbed down base of his party.

    Indeed, Carson’s extremely right-wing ideology is so inflexible that not only does he essentially agree with his fellow Republican candidates on the issues but more importantly as a black man in racist America his right wing and reactionary policies and agenda are totally unable to address the issues and challenges of the vast masses of Africans in America some of whom were as poor as and others perhaps poorer than Carson, his brother and his single mother were in the 1950s and 1960s.

    The fact is that not only are Carson’s hard right policies that are packaged as conservative unable to ameliorate the socio-economic conditions of the masses of Africans in America but they are equally unable to address the deteriorating conditions of the masses of the Republican base including millions of poor whites so prominent in that base. Indeed, there is a reason for the latter and it is that Carson’s policy agenda is designed to appease the big money donors, corporate elites and millionaire class who like him oppose even basic commonsensical policies like clean air as opposed to polluted air, a minimum wage to benefit the most vulnerable low wage workers who even struggle to buy foods.

    Indeed, Ben Carson’s implosion is of no surprise to me for another reason and that is that this guy is so unconscionable that he seems to forget that just because ” he has arrived” into the elite classes partly through his own efforts but also because of state assistance via subsidized public schools and other transfers that his family may have qualified for in earlier years when he was dirt poor. Some of the very programs that Carson and his family would have benefitted from as poor people are the very ones that this self-proclaimed conservative and Christian now advocates to eradicate like Medicaid and Obamacare.

    Isn’t this a strange world when a formerly poor and no doubt discriminated black child now an accomplished neurosurgeon openly endorses xenophobic, homophobic and anti-poor policies?

    Bob Marley is right “Some people are so poor that all they have is money”

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