Gifted Hands and Grain Silos: RIP, Ben Carson's Campaign

Longest K-hole in history ended at CPAC Friday, with Ben Carson admitting his campaign's terminal prognosis

Ben Carson officially suspended his presidential campaign in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty

"Could I sit down right now and enjoy the rest of my life in complete luxury? Absolutely."

As far as answers to the "What now?" question go, Ben Carson could have given a much better one on a day when the AP reported that his campaign raised more money than any other GOP candidate and blew most of it on all the crony consultant garbage that doesn't actually win elections. But you couldn't have asked for a better farewell to the campaign itself.

The longest K-hole in history ended with Carson on the CPAC stage, hands laced together and thumbs perpetually twiddling, as if he were losing a thumb war with himself. Even at the moment that he confronted the terminal prognosis of his campaign and admitted it to the world, he couldn't be bothered to open his eyes: He was the flesh version of the eyeless muppet Dr. Bunsen Honeydew to the end. 

The crowd was on its feet when Carson entered, the room already packed by Ted Cruz, who'd abandoned the stage a few minutes before. It was impossible to suppose that everyone cheering could have been Carson volunteers or voters, although an improbable number clapped vigorously when he referred to his "supporters" during the Q&A that followed his speech.

Despite my best efforts the day before, I hadn't found anyone who admitted to having Carson as a first choice. Obviously, I could have missed some people, but for someone who had been losing primary contests for the last 32 days and whose numbers had been on a steady decline since November 5, it's hard to imagine a lot of people wanted to shell out $300 to see the fabulous duet of a selectively blind guy and a dead campaign.

The closest I came to someone with real enthusiasm for Carson at this late date was a man poring over tables of campaign books, who admitted to liking Carson's memoir, Gifted Hands. His favorite book, though, was The 5,000 Year Leap, by Cleon Skousen, who once referred to black people in one of his history books as "pickaninnies."

The CPAC goodbye was the typical Carson performance, a collection of dopey wisdom, lost anecdotes and incorrect data so breathtakingly dumb that the next time you go to the doctor you'll reflexively squint extra hard at him or her and ask yourself, "Could this idiot motherfucker accidentally kill me right here?"

After misquoting his beloved Constitution in a debate and citing an email forward's non-fact about Stalin in another, Carson threw bloggers a bone at the close, adding more unforced errors just for the hell of it. He offered his simpering pity for the press, avatars of the souls lost to modernity. "The press is the only job that is protected by the Constitution," he said. "The press were supposed to be the allies of the people. They were not supposed to take sides and do what they have done." Woe betide the historian who acquaints this esteemed Constitutionalist with the contemporary journalism of the founders and its gleeful accusations and implications of adultery, bastardy and corruption.

Carson also spent a few minutes on a tortured story of Joe the Butcher — who presumably moved on after his plumbing business failed — and how he became poorer because the Federal Reserve refuses to raise interest rates. Like all average Joes, Joe the Butcher is deeply invested in the bond market, and the bond market is why income inequality is rising. OK.

Surgeon Chauncey Gardiner also prided himself on the fact that "no Washington politician talks about the fiscal gap — the unfunded liabilities… versus the money we have coming back in," which he alone was willing to speak out against. Aside from Ted Cruz, who'd talked about it with Sean Hannity maybe ten minutes before.

As was the case for months, when he wasn't a goddamn doofus, he was merely hypocritical.

Carson noted the staggering computing power of the human brain, then mentioned that you can inspire any animal to feel fear, and that all political campaigns should aspire to higher reasoning and higher aspirations. This is the same guy who punched his own national political ticket by repeatedly likening the president and the Affordable Care Act to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. 

He decried "a nefarious group of individuals who are making every attempt to divide us" moments after stating that our problems derive from "government, they don't know what compassion is," painting hundreds of thousands of Americans as predators destroying their fellow citizens intentionally.

There have been stupid campaigns in the past. Just in the last cycle, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain's come to mind. But no campaign of such staggering stupidity ever lasted so long. For someone whose appeal to the masses relied so much on the vast genius of the founding fathers, it's almost poetic how relentless a disappointment he offered to those children of the Enlightenment and the legacy they promised. It's almost something of a relief that a quest for the presidency starring someone with screwheaded fantasies about ancient Egyptian corn silos turned out to be helming a scam operation as suspected almost all along.

Let the record show that an afternoon nap underneath a sunbeam improbably stretched out over months went out the way so much of it had been conducted, with a whimper in its sleep.

Carson stated that in choosing the next person to lead America, you'd "need someone who has demonstrated significant accomplishment… whose ideas and policies are clear," and whose character would be revealed by "how they treat others and their family." We'd also "need to see what they have done for America."

When he declined to name that person, a quarter of the room began heading for the exits. Later, during the Q&A, pressed for his endorsement, he again declined to name names, sending another quarter of the room out the door — the enthusiasm for Dr. Carson as transient and transactional as it had been from the very beginning.

"What we need in America now is trickle-down ethics." Maybe the streams of people going through the exits would find it.