The GOP Clown Car Rolls On
As some ex-evangelicals have pointed out, Carson fits this model. He claims in his autobiography, Gifted Hands, that he once tried to stab someone named “Bob,” failing only because he accidentally hit a belt buckle. Also, he told reporters decades ago that as a youth he attacked people with “bats and bricks” and hammers. The hammer victim was apparently his mother.
In Gifted Hands, none of this stuff seems any more real than the book’s other inspirational passages, like the one where as a college student he prays to God about being broke and gets immediate relief as he walks across campus. “A $10 bill lay crumpled on the ground in front of me,” he wrote (the magical $10 bill is a recurring character in Carsonia).
Soon, reporters were interviewing childhood friends, who were revealing what is clear if you read between the lines of Carson’s book, which is that he was probably never anything but a nerd with an overheated imagination. “He was skinny and unremarkable,” a classmate named Robert Collier told CNN. “I remember him having a pocket saver.”
Carson lashed out at reporters for doubting his inspirational tale of a homicidal, knife-wielding madman turned convivial brain surgeon. “I would say to the people of America: Do you think I’m a pathological liar like CNN does?” he said.
This bizarre state of affairs led to stories in the straight press that were indistinguishable from Onion fare. “Ben Carson Defends Himself Against Allegations That He Never Attempted to Murder a Child,” wrote New York magazine, in perhaps the single funniest headline presidential politics has ever seen.
Next, BuzzFeed reporters unearthed an old speech of Carson’s in which he outlined a gorgeously demented theory about the Egyptian pyramids: They were not tombs for Pharaohs, but rather had been built by the biblical Joseph to store grain. The latter idea he accepted after discarding the obvious space-aliens explanation.
“Various scientists have said, ‘Well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge,'” he said. “[But] it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.”
Scientists were quick to point out all sorts of issues, like the pyramids not really being hollow and therefore really sucky places to store grain. Then there was the fact that the Egyptians wrote down what the pyramids were for in, well, writing.
The pyramid story sent the Internet, which specializes in nothing if not instant mockery, into overdrive. Carson quickly became perhaps the single funniest thing on Earth. The Wrap ran a piece about Carson being “mocked mercilessly” on social media, where other “Carson theories” quickly developed: that the Eiffel Tower was for storing French bread, brains were actually a fruit, and peanut butter can be used as spermicide, etc. The whole world was in on it. It was epic.
Poor Trump now had to concede that someone else in the race was even more ridiculous and unhinged than he was. The campaign’s previously unrivaled carnival expert/circus Hitler was reduced to sounding like George Will as he complained somberly – and ungrammatically – about the attention the mad doctor was stealing away from him.
“With Ben Carson wanting to hit his mother on head with a hammer, stabb [sic] a friend and Pyramids built for grain storage,” Trump tweeted sadly, “don’t people get it?”
By the end of the first week of November, Carson did not experience, upon close scrutiny, an instant plunge in the polls, as previous front-runners-for-a-day like Rick Perry or Herman Cain had in years past. Instead, he remained atop the polls with Trump, having successfully convinced his followers that the media flaps were just liberal hazing of a black man who threatened leftist stereotypes. And so the beginning of the long-awaited “real race” stalled still another week.
Trump commented during a rally in Illinois: “You can say anything about anybody, and their poll numbers go up. This is the only election in history where it’s better off if you stabbed somebody. What are we coming to?”
We are coming to the moment when Trump is the voice of reason, that’s what.