Why Ben Carson is unraveling

Tribune News Service
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. Carson called for Congress to cut off funding for resettlement of Syrian immigrants in the U.S. (AP Photo/John Locher)

We shouldn't be surprised that the wheels are coming off of the poorly built Ben Carson bus.

The Carson phenomenon has never been about his ideas or experience. For most of his supporters, it is about Carson not being Barack Obama. That's why seeing his personal story peeled apart is more upsetting to his supporters than the fact that he lacks even the most basic knowledge and skills to lead the country.

It is Carson himself who centralized his life story as the fundamental _ possibly only _ reason he should be elected commander in chief. He made spectacular claims that he cannot back up. His West Point "scholarship" offer, a supposed near-homicidal stabbing he carried out and his run-in with an armed robber are all uncorroborated, though he has written about and told these stories for years.

Either he knew they were fabrications and embellishments, or, perhaps more disturbingly, he genuinely came to believe his own lies.

It is telling that Carson's main campaign adviser is the disgraced conservative activist Armstrong Williams, who has had his own struggles with ethics and truth-telling. Williams lost his multiple gigs as a television commentator after it was revealed that he was being paid to promote President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind policy, a fact he failed to reveal on numerous occasions when he praised the initiative.

Williams, who is African-American and a leading strategist behind the Carson political machine, must have approved Carson's bizarre rap-song radio ad. Though Carson and his fans tout his lack of interest in race as his most attractive quality, they clearly are not above shameless pandering to try to woo black voters.

They ignore the fact that Carson's positions on the Confederate flag, Ferguson, Mo., the Black Lives Matter movement and President Obama are wildly out of sync with the views of most African-Americans. Only in some alternative reality can Carson and his campaign assume that his racial pandering, as his conservative supporters would phrase it, could succeed.

There are dark clouds on the horizon. Carson seems to be cracking under the pressure of increased scrutiny, lashing out at the media and disingenuously accusing reporters of going especially hard on him.

But no amount of umbrage aimed at the press can hide the fact that Carson is stupendously unqualified, although this may not matter to a Republican base seeking a right-wing messiah rather than a genuine political leader.

Clarence Lusane is the chairman of the political science department at Howard University. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project. Readers may write to the author at: Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main Street, Madison, Wis. 53703; email: pmproj@progressive.org; Web site: www.progressive.org. For information on PMP's funding, please visit http://www.progressive.org/pmpabout.html#anchorsupport.