Ben Carson’s gaffes and lies continue

November 7, 2015 • 10:00 am

I can’t help going after Ben Carson; I suppose it’s a combination of his ignorance, his repeated and stupid attacks on evolution, and the fact that right now he’s the Republican front-runner. Readers have speculated that Carson really knows better about evolution, and he’s just lying for Jesus and his constituency, but I’m not so sure. After all, the human mind, particularly when marinated in faith, is eminently capable of deceiving itself.

Now, however, Carson has been caught in more gaffes and at least two lies. Will this hurt him? I doubt it: to Republicans, who have a seemingly infinite tolerance for incompetence and dissimulation, he’s golden.

First, as the Washington Post reports, Carson shows a profound ignorance (deliberate or otherwise) of American history. Here’s part of a Facebook post he put up on Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 7.14.55 AM

Note two things in the third paragraph. First, his claim that “Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no elected office experience.” Even those with only a cursory knowledge of American history knows that’s wrong; the Post notes that of the five members of the Declaration’s drafting committee, four—John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Roger Sherman—had held elective office. Among the 51 other signers of the Declaration, the Post counts 27 as having held elective office. That’s more than half.

The second gaffe, or rather lie, wasn’t taken up by the Post—Carson’s statement about the signers that “What they had was a deep belief that freedom is a gift from God. They had a determination to rise up against a tyrannical King.” That’s also bogus. Although the Declaration does state this—

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

—everyone knows that people like Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson, were either atheists, agnostics, or at best deists, and their belief in creating a country based on freedom came from the Enlightenment, not from God. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution—the actual underpinning of our government drafted in 1787—doesn’t mention God once. Note, too, that even in the statement above, governments are said to obtain their powers from the “consent of the governed.” That doesn’t mean “from the consent of God,” but from the people. 

The most famous Founders, including George Washington, could hardly be said to have been religious, and at any rate what religion they did believe they kept to themselves, unlike every Republican candidate. I suspect that people like Jefferson, Franklin, and Washington didn’t believe in any of the tenets of Christianity—save, perhaps, in a deistic God. I’m pretty sure Franklin was an outright atheist, but of course you couldn’t admit such things back then.

And now to the lies. Carson has now been caught embroidering his resume. Here he is on Charlie Rose this October, saying what Carson’s been saying for years—he was offered a full scholarship to West Point:

As I said, this isn’t the first time he’s said that, as Politico (which broke the story) noted:

Ben Carson has repeatedly claimed he was offered a full scholarship from West Point. He conveys the story in at least two other books, “You Have a Brain” and “Take the Risk.” Carson repeated his West Point claim as recently as Aug. 13, when he fielded questions from supporters on Facebook.

And in October, Carson shared the story with Charlie Rose: “I had a goal of achieving the office of city executive officer [in JROTC]. Well, no one had ever done that in that amount of time … Long story short, it worked, I did it. I was offered full scholarship to West Point, got to meet General Westmoreland, go to Congressional Medal dinners, but decided really my pathway would be medicine.”

Anybody who’s acquainted with the U.S. military academies, including the Naval Academy and West Point, knows that there are no “full scholarships”: you apply, need a nomination from your congressman (or a few other sources), and then become part of a rigorous selection process, with the vast majority of candidates failing to secure a spot. (I was once urged to go to West Point by my father, an Army officer, and did investigate the process.) If you do get in, your tuition and all expenses are free. As Greg Mayer (who sent me the link) told me—and he has a daughter who went to the Naval Academy—”Anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the US military academies knows that there is no tuition for any cadet/midshipman. Not only is he lying, it’s a lie that couldn’t possibly be true.”

One more “embroidery”: the part about meeting General Westmoreland appears to be false as well. As the Detroit News reports:

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s published account of having dinner with a top commander in the Vietnam War after marching in a Memorial Day parade in 1969 as a high school ROTC cadet in Detroit does not match historical records.

In Carson’s 1990 best-selling autobiography, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” the neurosurgeon tells of being offered a scholarship to West Point as a high school senior sometime after having dinner with the U.S. Army’s chief of staff, Gen. William Westmoreland, on Memorial Day 1969.

But Westmoreland’s personal schedule shows the general was not in Detroit on Memorial Day or during the days preceding and following the holiday. His schedule says he was in and around Washington, D.C., that weekend, according to Army archives The Detroit News reviewed Friday.

As with the West Point gaffe, Carson’s campaign is doing damage control, and Carson is even blaming the media for scrutinizing him more closely than it scrutinized Obama. It’s said to be a “media witch hunt,” something Republicans will increasingly maintain because they hate the media, which they see as a bastion of liberal politics.

But wait—there’s more! Carson has made a big deal of his supposedly violent past, but none of those incidents can be verified by the press, either. As CNN reports (see the video on that CNN page as well):

In his 1990 autobiography, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” Carson describes those acts as flowing from an uncontrollable “pathological temper.” The violent episodes he has detailed in his book, in public statements and in interviews, include punching a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock, leaving a bloody three-inch gash in the boy’s forehead; attempting to attack his own mother with a hammer following an argument over clothes; hurling a large rock at a boy, which broke the youth’s glasses and smashed his nose; and, finally, thrusting a knife at the belly of his friend with such force that the blade snapped when it luckily struck a belt buckle covered by the boy’s clothes.

“I was trying to kill somebody,” Carson said, describing the incident — which he has said occurred at age 14 in ninth grade — during a September forum at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

But nine friends, classmates and neighbors who grew up with Carson told CNN they have no memory of the anger or violence the candidate has described.

. . . All of the people interviewed expressed surprise about the incidents Carson has described. No one challenged the stories directly. Some of those interviewed expressed skepticism, but noted that they could not know what had happened behind closed doors.

Gerald Ware, a classmate at Southwestern High School said he was “shocked” to read about the violence in Carson’s book.

“I don’t know nothing about that,” said Ware, who still lives in southwestern Detroit. “It would have been all over the whole school.”

CNN was unable to independently confirm any of the incidents, which Carson said occurred when he was a juvenile.

The reason this “violence” narrative is important is because Carson used it to show how his life was changed by God. After a particularly violent episode in which he tried to kill someone, he wrote, Carson went into the bathroom of his Detroit home and picked up a Bible. Turning to a passage in Proverbs—an experience comparable to Francis Collins seeing his frozen waterfall—Carson’s life was suddenly transformed, he came to God, and was instantly turned into the mild-mannered and anodyne person he is today.

That’s a good story, and plays into the Republican penchant for religion, but it doesn’t seem to be true.

Last year, NBC News anchor Brian Williams was caught fabricating stories, and putting them on the air, about his role in the Iraq war. For that he was fired. Newspeople, everyone said, have a special responsibility to tell the truth.

Why should we expect anything less from Presidential candidates?


115 thoughts on “Ben Carson’s gaffes and lies continue

    1. No expert am I, but a look around the web shows that having delusions of grandeur (which would explain Ben Carsons’ claims) can emerge from schizophrenia or from bipolar disorders. Full blown, these would be heroic and totally crazy claims from a pretty dysfunctional person.
      But it is common for reasonably functional people to be somewhere along a spectrum that leads to having a full disorder. So I am not sure that Carson is diagnosable as being mentally ill, but he may be a few steps down the road in that direction.

      1. The travails of the vetting process will likely bring out the worst. No expert am I either, but I’m guessing an extremely high-functioning person with residual schizophrenia of the disorganized subtype. It’s the flat affect that cues me in this regard.

      2. Imagination and confabulation can happen with “normal” people. Where the fanciful becomes concrete like the story of a photograph of a bunch of cow boys with a dead pterasaur. Never pubished, but I can picture it very clearly. But that is only in my imagination. But back in the 1970’s there were some who not only believed it to be true, but said they “actually saw it.” Isn’t it amazing our mental architecture? The draw back of having an imagination.

    2. He’s definitely off his trolley.

      (I’m getting that in now, before he is officially recognised as being a rav… errm, cognitively impaired and it then becomes ‘inappropriate’ to describe him as off his trolley) 😉


      1. I love that expression – ‘off his trolley’.
        It’s so good it should be applied judiciously. Carson is the correct target.

        1. Personally, I like the expression “Not so much ‘fallen out of his tree’ as ‘sitting in his car and driving away from the orchard at high speed'”.

    3. I wish no one ill health, but for several weeks I’ve posted non-sarcastic suggestions that an MRI for this guy might not be a bad idea. 🙁

      1. Perhaps, though I suspect such a procedure would be non-definitive in such a borderline type case. But it is heartening to see that at least people are working on this holy grail. The pisser is that he’d have to cooperate with psychiatrists and their admittedly subjective assessments… they’d be dealing with brain pathology in a friggin neurosurgeon with a God complex from hell. You’ve no doubt heard how doctors make the worst patients. Anyway, I hope something positive happens, as all I see is escalation on the horizon. And if history is any guide, the rich and powerful cover themselves and get covered for, until it’s too late.

  1. First, his claim that “Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no elected office experience.”

    Well, it actually says “no federal elected office experience”.

    Of course, since the federal government, under the constitution, didn’t exist until after the Declaration of Independence …

    1. … that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, …

      It’s worth emphasising that, with the Declaration having been written by deists, the “creator” is not “God”, the creator is “Nature”.

      That is more obvious in Jefferson’s original draft: “… that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable”.

      The whole point of the Declaration is a rejection of the idea of a God that involved himself in politics, and decreed political station.

      That’s because the standard idea then was the “Divine Right of Kings” idea that God had ordained people as subject to a King.

      Jefferson was rejecting that idea, saying that we are all equal products of nature (and thence from some distant, deist, first-cause “god”), and that we were thus not subject to a King, but that “We the people” must work things out for ourselves — and thus that the “consent of the governed” was the only legitimate form of government.

      The whole thing is a rejection of God’s involvement in politics.

      [Longer defense of this interpretation here.]

      1. Well done. Too bad we don’t have that as the reigning belief system. We wouldn’t be heading for some kind of imperial theocracy right now.
        No interference in Science, no attempts to usurp the Constitution. The US spends $80 billion a year on religious based groups. It is terrible. We are hardly a secular nation. In fact we are much more religious now than in the 1700’s.

        The only approved of govt in the Bible seems to be a deity appointed absolute king with appointed functionaries. No elections, no consent of the governed. Antithetical to our way of govt, on paper, and a thorn in the side of retro historians wanting to say we were and should be again—some kind of religiously governed polity. And since the average USA citizen is rather narrow centered. Not much for history or science or even govt. A nightmare that Jefferson would have found appalling as would all the Founders. Though it was predicted if we lost control of our govt and it took so many years for it to happen.

        1. Reminds me of Susan Jacoby reflecting on a poll from several years ago showing that approx. 25% of U.S. college students were unable to find Iraq on a map LABELED with the names of countries.

    2. As I understand it, he originally said “no elected office experience”, and the reference to “federal office” was an attempt at a correction. Of course, the fact that there was no federal government at the time makes the correction essentially as bad as the original.

        1. Elected office is enough. Though our present Neo-Liberal and Chief had minimal experience in the Congress when he came out of nowhere to get elected. Reminded me of Jimmy Carter who seemed to just rise up out of the background to become the leader and get elected as president.

    3. Notice that Carson’s facebook post was, itself edited. Earlier, someone pointed out that several of the signers had served in their statehouses. Apparently Carson then inserted “federal”, and turned this into an even bigger gaffe, because, as you rightly pointed out, there were no federal offices at the time.

    4. It says that now. The original post did not use the word “federal”. Apparently his staff went in a added “federal” after he got called on it.

  2. The worst part is that he doesn’t understand why he’s being questioned about these things. Is he really so naive not to know that presidential candidates’ lives are scrutinized in detail? What did he think when he decided to run for office? And what does he think it will be like if he wins? Does he really think he’ll never be questioned?

    1. I think it is fair to say that, on average, deeply religious people have little regard or respect for truth, logic, or evidence. It goes with the territory. In Carson’s case, he may even be able to believe that his imagined events occurred – until he is forced to confront the contradictions. It is a mindset that is needed to maintain that all kinds of easily falsified religious beliefs are actually true.

  3. I think for the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that the last paragraph of the Constitution is as follows:

    “done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,”

    This reference to “our Lord” may just have been a stylized way to end such documents, but it does indicate that there was at least a pro forma acknowledgement that Jesus was a deity. Of course, this reference in no way indicates that the signers believed that the document was the inspiration of God.

    1. “Year of our Lord” is just the English translation of “anno Domini” or “AD.” It was a common convention in previous centuries for English speakers to state dates that way, particularly for formal occasions. All you can assume from someone using that phrase is that they were following a common convention for stating calendar dates.

      Using that phrase nowdays would be a self-conscious anachronism. To the extent we indicate era, we use AD, or the more recent CE. Being an old fart, I still use AD. And I can assure you that I am a long-term atheist and by no means am indicating any belief in Jesus when I use it.

    2. I think you are correct to say this was a stylized way to finish of signed documents. Lawyers like the flourish. As far as it having any significance to the religiosity of the signers…hardly.

      The really sad thing about the majority who do not read American history at all — they think they know how religious these people were and they have even made up their own reasons why this document was created. It’s a goddamn shame.

    3. Our Founders could have started another calender, but did not. So they stayed with the conventional calender. Rather awkward otherwise. Though there will be some who grasping at straws would latch upon it as some kind of “proof” that we were a religious based nation.

      They never use “Nature’s God” unless they are quoting from the DOE. And purposely ignoring its real meaning. But then they all want some kind of Bible based govt with its concomitant laws and punishments. Good thing they have those anti-Shari’a Laws would work against Leviticus since one is based upon the other older set of laws. Though with the Constitution why do they need such particular laws anyway except to induce fear and then comfort over nothing.

      1. This brings to mind this….

        Schizotypal personality disorder is a personality disorder characterized by a need for social isolation, anxiety in social situations, odd behavior and thinking, and often unconventional beliefs. People with this disorder feel extreme discomfort with maintaining close relationships with people, and therefore they often do not. People who have this disorder may display peculiar manners of talking and dressing and often have difficulty in forming relationships. In some cases, they may react oddly in conversations, not respond or talk to themselves. They frequently misinterpret situations as being strange or having unusual meaning for them; paranormal and superstitious beliefs are not uncommon. People with this disorder seek medical attention for things such as anxiety, depression, or other symptoms. Schizotypal personality disorder occurs in 3% of the general population and is slightly more common in males.

        Now he may have overcome some of his fear or never had that particular part of SPD.

      2. Notice that the French did (for a while), so it was “in the air”. This is just a historical remark; the idea that somehow the founders were Christians (or all such) because of the use of “year of our lord” (at the time) is a bit silly, what with all the other evidence the other way.

      3. Actually, there have a been a number of references to homosexuality being against “Nature” and “Nature’s God” by god botherers since Obergefell and Kim Davis. It is obviously a self-conscious reminder to the audience of the Declaration of Independence. Christians would never have used “Nature’s God” to refer to Christ or “the Lord”. But now they’re adopting it as if it means the same thing, and is thus part of our “Christian heritage”.

  4. Jeet Heer has a piece in The New Republic that claims to address Carson’s bizarre claims but says not word one about their religious motivation.

    But aside from his proclivity toward weird ideas (often connected to his right-wing ideology)…

    . Right-wing ideology my ass.

    1. Thanks for the link to the Jeet Heer article. He describes Carson as a “fantasist,” but makes no connection from his religious beliefs to his delusional state. Is Heer’s piece an exceptional example of shoddy journalism or did he have an ulterior motive in not mentioning religion?

  5. At one point the Declaration of Independence overtly mentions “Nature’s God” which is likely to have been a wink-wink nod to Spinozian pantheism and/or deism.

    Right wingers have often quoted Ben Franklin’s prayer invocation to prove he was Christian, but Franklin was known both to have waffled on his views and to have heavily entertained the notion of religion as a useful fiction for governing. It doesn’t fly given Franklin’s whole body of writing.

    However, John Adams was a Unitarian and largely representative of the no longer existing conservative wing of Unitarianism, as Jefferson was in the liberal wing of same.
    Adams was highly critical of what he regarded as the impiety and needless doubts of Jefferson’s and Tom Paine’s attacks on Christianity, and Adams regarded Jesus as a redeemer in some sort of Unitarian way but nonetheless in a way that Paine and Jefferson definitely rejected.

    The other relatively traditionally religious fellow in the founding fathers is John Jay, co-signer of the Treaty of Paris (with Franklin and Adams and others), and co-author of many of the Federalist Papers although he didn’t attend the Constitutional Convention, and his Congressional duties prevented him from being in on the Declaration. (He is also first Chief Justice.) Adams was a fairly traditional Episcopalian and even hoped that after the Revolution the American Episcopal Church would maintain ties with the Archbishop of Canterbury. This didn’t go through!!

  6. Pathological liars such as Carson are nothing new, we come across a few in our lives from time to time. I have this theory that it is some type of personality disorder and it is something they cannot help. It’s kind of the same as stealing from shops. One very disturbing example of this is a historian and one of my favorites – Joseph Ellis. Apparently he related to some of his students that he had been in Vietnam. Why he would have done this when it was not true, only he could explain. It makes no sense but there it is.

    The West Point story is also very sad but he did some ROTC while in high school so maybe he thought he knew what he was talking about. I had a cousin who did ROTC in College and that normally leads to induction into military service after college. But he did not go into the military so he either avoided it due to medical reasons or backed out and paid back all the tuition he was given. His mother said in an article in the local paper that her son received a honorable discharge from the ROTC. I have no idea why she would say this but it is not true. You do not get discharged from the ROTC in the same sense that you do from the military. ROTC is not the military, it is pretend military for kids in school. You do not take an oath like people who go into the real military.

    Even a person in the Army or Navy Academy is not in the military. That does not happen until you graduate.

    1. Actually, cadets and midshipmen at the academies are in the military. The day of arrival at the academy is called “I-Day”– for induction into the service. They take the oath, and begin earning their military salaries. They do not become commissioned officers until graduation, but are “officer cadets” (this or similar ranks are used for officer trainees in many NATO and Commonwealth militaries).

  7. The most famous Founders, including George Washington, could hardly be said to have been religious…

    For an interesting (and lengthy!) read on the topic, check out Matthew Stewart’s Nature’s God.

  8. Carson reminds me of Joseph Ellis. Like Carson, Ellis , a prof at Mt Holyoke, has had a distinguished academic career. One of his books won a Pulitzer, another a National Book Award. Yet, according to Wikipedia he told his class he had been a platoon leader in Viet Nam
    when he had filled his military obligation by teaching at West Point. It amazes me that people of such accomplishments, Carson and Ellis, still have to lie to further magnify themselves.

    1. “Like Carson, Ellis , a prof at Mt Holyoke, has had a distinguished academic career.”

      Carson’s career as a surgeon is said to be distinguished, but is it said to be, in any real sense, academic?

  9. The archetypal template for conversion in evangelical Christianity, formed from the stories of Paul and Augustine, is as follows:

    Be as bad a person as you can be (without getting hanged).

    Struggle mightily with yourself and god over this sociopathic behavior.

    See the light at last.

    Accept your hard-earned hallelujahs.

    In the group-think of the faithful, the worse you were, the better you are.

  10. “He conveys the story in at least two other books, You Have A Brain and Take The Risk…”

    The first of which was apparently inspired by Carson’s morning ritual, in which he chants the book’s title into his bathroom mirror.

      1. …that’s my name WordPress, don’t wear it out.

        This bug or whatever is really beginning to wear me out. It’d be tolerable if I was called Chip Wren, or Bud Dell but writing out my full name every time and having the software decide arbitrarily to post before I’ve written anything is less fun than you might think.

        Please WordPress, get it together.

        And I was only trying to post a smiley face originally…:). There.

  11. Hi Jerry,

    I keep a running log of my favorite quotes in the form of a micorsoft word file. Today, I added a new favorite from your post below:

    “After all, the human mind, particularly when marinated in faith, is eminently capable of deceiving itself”

    Carson’s intellect is most definitely undergoing faith-based tenderization. Does that make faith an intellectase?


    1. “undergoing faith-based tenderization. Does that make faith an intellectase?”

      There’s another entry for your log. 😎

  12. Ben Carson may have some tendencies toward an undiagnosed personality disorder. Similarly, I had thought (and said) that Trump was a narcissist. Reading up on traits of narcissism I learn that Trump does exhibit a few of those behaviors. Narcissists always believe they are right and are resistant to changing their opinions. Pushing back on their hurtful behavior triggers more personal attacks. Yep. Narcissists do not admit ignorance, and do not ask for help or advice.
    But also narcissists rely on opinions of people that they know for their own opinions rather than referring to opinions from authorities that they do not know or from books. They consider personally known authorities to be very important, and they long to be like them. I do not know if Trump has that particular indicator for being a full blown narcissist. Narcissists do not commonly reflect upon their past, or if they do they seem unable to state that they learned something or had been changed from a past experience. It is as if the person they are now was fixed since their teens. Again, I do not know where Trump falls in this area.

    1. I expect you can say with confidence that Trump is a narcissists. There could be other words to describe him but the one I am looking for is that he portrays the person you would not want to be around. The guy that is a legend in his own mind and has such a distorted overblown view of himself and his capabilities that most normal people who meet him would find the experience obnoxious. Yes, he would negotiate the paints off of Putin.

      1. Please change your last line. I can’t get the image of them ‘negotiating’ in front of a raging log fire, Women In Love style.

        1. …out of my head. I can’t get it out of my head, that’s what I meant.

          Anyway, I’m going to have to stare at that cat painting from earlier just to cleanse my mind.

        2. Oh, lordy, it’s spreading. Must…poke .. sharp knife…. into…….brain.
          There, that’s telephone.

  13. There is no way that Carson is pandering to his base. He’s the Real McCoy – a religiously delusional, mentally ill person who is unable to separate fantasy from reality.

    If you look back at Carson’s career, he’s always been like this. Pandering is a deliberate ruse, but Carson was talking about the pyramids being built by Joseph and used for grain storage for 20 years, long before he considered elective office. A shrewd political animal would have found a way to walk back those comments, but Carson isn’t shrewd, he’s just delusional.

    You want pandering? The poster boy for pandering is John McCain. He was a mainstream centrist Republican for decades but was pushed so far to the right during his 2008 campaign that he started mouthing all sorts of crazy stuff. And, boy, did he look uncomfortable doing it. That’s pandering which is why I returned my John McCain Fan Club decoder ring. He sold out.

    Carson has gotten way too much mileage out of his brain surgeon gig. The guy has serious mental issues and really needs to be netted off the stage.

    1. I think you’re right. Carson is genuinely delusional. He is not pandering for political purposes. The important question is to what extent his rantings have helped or hurt him with the Republican electorate. Based on current polling, there seems to be a significant element within the GOP that have no problem with Carson or actually have the same mindset, fueled by right-wing religion. Even if Carson should fade from the scene, the religious right will remain perhaps the most significant component within the Republican coalition. It has already elected many of its members to Congress, state legislatures and governorships. And these people have done great damage. Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, is but one example. So, no matter what may happen with Carson, the immediate future of the country is bleak, and that will remain the case even if a Democrat is elected president. At least, though, a Democrat in the White House may be able to limit the damage.

      1. I can sum up the “rationale” of his base easily:

        “He’s a Godly man.”

        That’s it. I heard that phrase used in many news segments where they interviewed his supporters.

        It doesn’t matter if he’s insane, or ignorant or a complete fool, so long as “he’s a Godly man.”

        To this crowd of supporters Carson is Teflon coated. Nothing he can say or do, no matter how wrong, will hurt him with his base because “he’s a Godly man.”

        Now I need to go find my teddy bear and a bottle of Jack.

        1. Yes, and I think there’s a little more to it. Carson’s base had probably never heard of or even considered the use of the pyramids as storage bins. It’s so off-the-wall it probably makes no sense even to his staunchest supporters. But, they like the fact that he can invoke scripture into an area that never needed it before. The goal seems to be to thumb their noses at the educated elite. To be able to claim a domain free of the constraints of rationality in which to establish their control and dominance. Nothing trumps the bible don’t you know.

    2. Absolutely. I too remember McCain as being once interesting. Although it was unlikely that I would ever vote for him, on more than one occasion in the past I remember thinking that a McCain presidency would not be the worst thing to happen.
      Then came the ’08 campaign and his introduction of Palin into national politics (for which I will never forgive him). That was followed by his many failed chances to help steer the republicans to the moderate center afterwards. He is a complete tool. A shadow of his former uniqueness.

      1. Total agreement. I actually might have voted for him, especially the year Al Gore won the presidency. Palin…after being tortured in North Vietnam for 5 years, you’d think McCain could have resisted the movement conservatives. Old age, maybe.

      2. I respected McCain. Although I wasn’t going to vote for him (I’ve voted Democratic for a long time) I was glad he was the Republican nominee, because sometimes Republicans win and he could have done the job well. But picking Palin for VP was an astonishing lapse of judgement.

        1. Yep. I voted for McCain in the primary – at least I tried to persuade our little group of neo-Nazis to collectively vote for him. They changed the rules to prevent stealth Republicans like me from pulling the vote away from the anointed candidate. I would’ve then voted Dem in the general.

          But that was before McCain announced Palin. Had I known about that, I would’ve formed an alliance with the one Lib in that odious group, arguing for Ron Paul. Boy our system sure is messed up.

  14. I’ve heard Jefferson, Adams, and Washington described as “theistic rationalists”. Jefferson has been quoted as believing in providence, which makes deism unlikely.

    A theistic rationalist is theistic only to the degree that it doesn’t conflict with reason, hence the Jefferson Bible.

  15. As a Brit, I always find it amusing when Americans refer to their revolution as an uprising against “tyranny”. It seems to set the bar ridiculously low for that term. From my reading of history, the American Revolution was a dispute over colonial taxation and representation (or lack of it) in the British Parliament. A more astute British government could have solved the problem over afternoon tea with a few minor concessions, and American political independence would then have come about gradually and peacefully, as it did for Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

    If King George III was a “tyrant”, what word can you use to describe Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin or Saddam Hussein?

    And yes, Carson is an idiot!

    1. The causes of the American Revolution has been a hotly debated topic. Your statement that the dispute between the colonies and the mother country could have been settled with a more astute British government is probably correct, although always with counterfactual history we are engaging in what I would call informed speculation. From a macro perspective, I think it fair to say that the British government did not understand that the colonies (by this I mean the ruling classes within them) were not being treated as equal subjects in the British Empire. In both the economic and political spheres, the colonists were viewed as inferior by the British ministers. Infused by Enlightenment values, the colonists were repelled by the imperial arrogance, which believed that the purpose of the colonies was to serve the economic interests of Britain. In the period between the end of the French and Indian War and the outbreak of hostilities, the colonists made appeals to George III and Parliament to come to their aid. The colonists considered the responses inadequate and thus their economic welfare and political honor warranted revolution.

    2. …independence would then have come about gradually and peacefully, as it did for Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

      And Ireland?

    3. I agree. I’ve always considered the “tyranny of British rule” a fantasy and excuse. The “huge burden of tax” worked out at less than 3%.

      1. One of the things I have maybe learned in reading about the revolution is that many things were in play. After the French and Indian War, which cost Britten lots of money, they rightfully felt the colonies should pay for some of this. The colonies were wrong but thought not. Also, King George was blessed with a second rate PM in Lord North. With a better, more open-minded fellow, who knows?
        King George also had a fast trigger and actually ended any chance of avoiding conflict by declaring us totally off the reservation and at war before it was really necessary.

        Remember, the revolution had been going on for a year before the declaration of independence was done. There was lots of reluctance to go forward with this business until George kind of jump started it. That little skirmish up there in Boston was pretty much over with the British leaving or bailing out, only to return big time to New York the following year.

        Hardly anyone in the colonies thought there was a chance in hell of winning.

        1. I find it hard to believe that almost no one in the colonies believed that they had a chance of winning. Do you have any documentation for this? If this were the prevailing belief then going to war was totally irrational, which certainly the colonial leaders were not. Coming to an accommodation with the Crown would have clearly been the best strategy to take, not armed revolution, which would have had the severest consequences on the colonies when defeated. Of course, during the dark days of the war, many Americans had doubts as to whether the war could be won. But, still they fought on or at least enough of them to win with the aid of the French.

          1. I like to think of the American revolution as England’s Vietnam. So why would I think this. England was the most powerful country in the world with the largest and best Navy. The people in the American colonies were second class at best, hardly thought of in the same sentence with the best of the Brits. George Washington could not even get a position in the British Army. Lets start out by looking for a half dozen people in England who would bet they would lose.

            Then lets look at what the Americans had. No standing army. No Navy to go up against the biggest in the world. Probably a full one third of the people in America remained loyal to the Brits. Only one third would even be part of the war for breaking away. Getting all hopped up about fighting is not the same as saying we can beat them. Please find us some documentation on all those who were convinced we could beat these guys.

            I could go on and talk about how it did happen that we won or that the Brits gave up and went home but this is getting too long.

              1. I should have said the Historian makes a good point because it is not logical or rational to end up in war if you are pretty sure the outcome is not for your side. However, that small group of men we all read about in the books were not always in charge and leading the way. Sometimes they were following events that blew right past them.

                While John Adams was trying to convince colonies further south that the conflict up in Massachusetts was their fight as well, many of them were thinking this is crazy. He also nominated George W. to lead the continental army and not just because he was the only guy in the room with a uniform on. George was tricky that way. Washington believed in the cause but would have bet very little on their chances. Adams maybe never realized, picking George was the best decision of his life.

    4. It’s possible that the differences between the colonists and Britain could have been worked out (if the British could have viewed the upper class colonists as more or less equals — unlikely). However, there were also issues of debt owed to British merchants by Americans who did not want to pay. Plus really clumsy governance by Britain, including stationing troops in private homes and sending dangerous people among the prisoners shipped here as indentured servants. (Probably not a lot of those dangerous indentured servants, but they got a lot of press.)

  16. It’s said to be a “media witch hunt,” something Republicans will increasingly maintain because they hate the media, which they see as a bastion of liberal politics.

    From a country that INVENTED Fox News?
    Seriously, Prof CCE, are you softening us up for announcing your post-retirement career in stand-up comedy? Or is the American body politic really so detached from normality?
    Does anyone have a link to a survey of the general American population that would indicate how many of them think the “founding fathers” (correct term?) were deeply religious? I think the “in god we trust” motto on some (all?) dollar bills is incorrectly cited as being a quote from the Constitution/ Declaration of Independence or some other early major document ; which is a similar class of historical error.

    1. I thought FOX News was invented by an Australian. 😉 I don’t know about a survey, and I’m no serious historian, but I think I have read about some serious animosity between the founders re: the role that religion would play in the republic. I think the deliberate church/state separation was sneaked through by omission rather than commission — and largely to keep a bunch of religious nutters from going at each others’ throats. It was only the few “leading” founders that have been argued to be “thestic rationlists” despite the various churches they belonged to or attended, while the remainder of the delegates belonged to different Protestant sects with a couple Roman Catholics thrown in for good measure. (one of whom was the brother of the country’s first RC bishop.) They all seemed to have much bigger things to fight about than religion (chiefly the mechanics of representation and the balance between federal and state power. What “deeply” religious means for the most of them, considering the mores of the times, I don’t have a clue. It just seems they had bigger fish to fry.

      1. I knoe an Austrlian brought FOX to get his American citizenship (there were several box tops involved in the deal too, IIRC). Thether that was before, during, or after, FOX getting cross bred with something horrible and giving rise to FAUX, I’m not sure.
        I wonder if someone has re-written Beowulf with Murdoch as Grendel’s mother, FAUX as Grendel … and who’s Beowulf? Maybe not the right narrative. Gargantua and Pantegruel? Or … gorgons?
        I need to think about this. Or maybe I need to apply lubrication to the little grey cells.

    2. I think Jerry is quite right here. I watched this play out on Fox yesterday, and it was amazing. Initially they thought the Westpoint thing was going to be bad for Carson, but by the end of the day they had decided it hadn’t done much, if any, damage.

      The reason? Politico had to change their story, so the Carson campaign was able to make it look like a liberal media attack on the right, which immediately made Carson a hero.

      He said on Fox too that the person he tried to stab was not a friend, but a family member. He had changed the identity in his book to protect them. He said he’d spoken to that person the previous night, but they didn’t want to be in the public eye. There was no indication of the gender or age of the person.

      Methinks it is possible this person doesn’t exist either, and he’s saying “family member” now because he tried to get a family member to pretend to be his “victim.”

      1. So … call me cynical, but given telephone records and genealogies, one can deduce that Carson has a relative in a hospice somewhere, on the way out, and that person got a phone call last night of the “flowers or fruit?” variety, and when they die, their secret past will be revealed.
        Carson may be dleusional, but that doesn’t make him an idiot.

  17. I remember reading that when LBJ settled on Hubert Humphrey as his runningmate, he asked someone to “go horseshed Hubert.” That meant to go ask him all sorts of uncomfortable questions about his past, lest something wind up as a surprise during the campaign. (It’s a pity George McGovern must not have had Tom Eagleton horsesheded.)

    Anyway, have we heard from any of his former colleagues @ Hopkins? That silence may be telling in its own right, not that anything more is really needed.

  18. with BC’s comments on pyramids there’s no way his stated views on evolution are only to appeal to Christian fundamentalists. He’s just a bad thinker.

  19. Ben Franklin’s Letter to Ezra Stiles should be read if you think he stops short of theism.

    Here’s a copy :

    Whole thing :

    Letter To Ezra Stiles, 9 March 1790

    You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.
    As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequences, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.

    1. I believe at one time he joined the Quakers’ church. It may have been more for political reason as they were very much in control in Pennsylvania.

    2. There are quite a few quotes showing he was basically a deist or skeptic for at least some of his life:

      “Although Franklin received religious training, his nature forced him to rebel against the irrational tenets of his parents Christianity. “… But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself.”

      “. . . for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a through Deist.”

      Here’s a list of what the founders believed:

  20. Experience counts, despite what citizen Carson says.
    Thomas Jefferson was a leader in the Virginia assembly before Independence. The founding documents of this country built on his experience writing the Virginia Colonial Constitution and diligent study of enlightenment principles.He would have been a terrible brain surgeon.

  21. Ricky Vaughn tweeted:

    “Attention to detail is important. Ben Carson has a misspelling of “Proverbs 22v4″ chiselled into his wall.” He spelt it missing an r: poverbs, maybe fittingly as Urban dictionary gives definition of po-faced as,”Po-faced means having an assumed solemn, serious, or earnest expression or manner; piously or hypocritically solemn. It can also mean expressionless or emotionless, perhaps derived from poker face meaning the ability to avoid showing any reaction to the cards you have been dealt.”

    The caption shows that Ben Carson has the whole verse carved grandly into a wall, been there for years.

  22. Well, it is the George Bush the second all over again in that respect. When he said Jesus was the philosopher of influence in his life, for a big part of the Republican base, including most of my own fundamentalist/evangelical relatives, that is all he needed for their votes. Even though once a lazy C student always a lazy C student. But let’s be fair. Carson said they had never held a FEDERAL elective office, and that is accurate and illuminating. Nobody knew how the federal system would work out, and it turned out it didn’t work out well: broken government then; broken government now. Secession and before that blocking of policy reforms.l And he didn’t do his homework about how the military academy admissions and “funding” worked, but I don’t doubt for a moment that as a teenager he was revved up by do-gooders seeing his potential for the fast track to a military career. That said,I hope none of the GOP candidates get long-term traction, but with Carson we at least know he is smarter and more likely could become a conscientious “student” about complex policy and diplomacy issues if something poll-vaults (pardon the pun) him into the presidency. I am assuming you don’t get credentialed as a surgeon without smarts.

    1. Smarts in what is needed to become a surgeon, but not anything else. Not unheard of for people to have one area of brilliance and the rest maybe of a mediocre or at least common ability. It might also be Schizotypal Personality Disorder too.

  23. This almost seems to bizarre to be true, but there are several different stories circulating, including from outlets such as The Guardian that Ben Carson has built a shrine in his own house to himself and Jesus. I don’t know about mentally ill, but Carson is most certainly a narcissist of the highest order.

    1. Yes, looks like we shared this discovery. I posted as well. I love the one of Carson with Christ. He’s obviously a man of exquisite refinement and artistic taste. He probably also has a velvet Elves somewhere.

  24. I like what Lindsay Graham said today on CNN, that it’s pretty crazy or upside-down when a presidential candidate says he tried to stab someone and we don’t believe him.

      1. Ignoring John Stewart’s continuous and comedically accurate lambasting, Graham has a sharp sense of wit often delivered as the interviewer talks over him for the next question.

        1. Yup. I noticed that. His politics is pretty screwy though. I have no idea whether he’s running for president seriously or in jest.

  25. Sir, I read follow your posts and agree and appreciate your work, But….your critical response to Carson’s comments in the following are unfortunately misquoted. Your statement…”Note two things in the third paragraph. First, his claim that “Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no elected office experience.” Even those with only a cursory knowledge of American history knows that’s wrong”
    When in actuality Carson said… ‘ no elected FEDERAL experience”. I know it might seem a rather trivial matter. One word left out. When in fact Carson is absolutely right in his misleading statement. Because I believe there was no federal government to be elected to!

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