Another Republican presidential candidate debate, and another opportunity to wonder how the party got into such a mess. The debate itself was remarkable because it took a cast of characters that wandered in from Alice in Wonderland and made them boring. In the midst of this yawn fest, Marco Rubio came off best, if only because he possesses superior varsity debate skills and didn’t have to answer tough questions about his flip-flopping on immigration.
Everyone else played their assigned roles: Trump was a blowhard, Fiorina the hard-charging CEO, Cruz the true believer, and Bush the incredible shrinking man.
And then there’s Ben Carson.
Carson has been having his moment in the sun, leading in some Iowa polls, apparently because some people mistake his low-key demeanor for reason. His debate performance only solidified that impression. But Carson illustrates pretty much everything that’s wrong with the GOP these days.
For one thing, he’s an extremist. Carson first came to widespread attention when he had to cancel a commencement speak at Johns Hopkins after he let loose a torrent of homophobic comments. Of course, that only endeared him to the party base. But homophobia is the least of it. Carson is a follower of far-right conspiracy theorist labeled by the conservative National Review as an “all-around nutjob.”
Cleon Skousen believed that Communists had burrowed into every level of government, industry and culture in America with the intention of destroying American life. Carson has simply transferred the Skousen’s rants to the “secular progressives” that he regularly complains about.
Carson has been pretty good at imitating a nutjob on his own. For a renowned brain surgeon, he’s remarkably stupid, with beliefs that are inexplicable in a man of science. There’s his belief that the Biblical figure Joseph built the pyramids as triangular grain elevators. He’s condemned Charles Darwin as inspired by Satan. He’s argued that if Nazis hadn’t had stringent gun laws, the Holocaust might never have happened.
Then there are the people that Carson surrounds himself with. First and foremost among these is Armstrong Williams, one of those fringe figures who makes a handsome living in the conservative political entertainment complex. Armstrong rose to fame defending Clarence Thomas, his former boss, and rode the connection to make himself a media figure, with his own TV and radio shows.