Dr. Ben Carson speaks to address the crowd at CPAC in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26, 2015.
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

Ben Carson and the ‘learning curve of a candidate’

There’s little doubt that Ben Carson is moving closer to a Republican presidential campaign. In his latest syndicated column, the retired doctor acknowledged the “learning curve of a candidate” and conceded he still has a lot to learn “in terms of becoming both a better candidate and a better potential president of the United States.”
 
Soon after, the company that syndicates Carson’s pieces announced the end of his column.
 
This will presumably give the Republican more time to address the “learning curve,” which doesn’t seem to be going well. The new feature in GQ on Carson includes the headline, “What If Sarah Palin Were a Brain Surgeon?” It includes this gem:
When I asked him which secretary of state he most admired, he replied Condoleezza Rice—who, of course, happened to be the most recent person to hold that post in a Republican administration. Similarly, Robert Gates was Carson’s favorite secretary of defense.
 
And when I asked Carson to name his favorite secretary of the treasury, he was stumped. “Andrea Mitchell’s husband,” he eventually offered.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, of course, is married to Alan Greenspan – the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, who has never been the Treasury secretary.
 
The same piece noted Carson’s trip to Israel, where he seemed surprised to discover that Israel has a legislative branch.
The woman answered Carson’s question about political parties, telling him that there were Labor and Likud and a host of other factions in the Knesset. “And what is the role of the Knesset?” he interjected. This prompted a tutorial on Israel’s legislature. Carson is a tall, dignified-looking man with a placid, almost sleepy face. As he tried to concentrate on his Hebrew Schoolhouse Rock primer, he seemed even more fatigued. “It sounds complex,” he finally said. “Why don’t they just adopt the system we have?”
All of this coincides with an interview last week in which Carson seemed confused about NATO and suggested violence among Islamic radicals dates back several centuries before Islam even existed.
 
Eventually, the unannounced candidate conceded “there’s a lot of material to learn,” but insisted that “we spend too much time trying to get into these little details that are easily within the purview of the experts that you have available to you.”
 
I have no idea if, and to what extent, Carson’s limited knowledge base may worry Republican primary voters. By all appearances, polls show the right-wing neurosurgeon running a competitive fourth in a crowded GOP presidential field, and maybe the party’s base just isn’t bothered by his unfamiliarity with so many issues.
 
But it’s generally a bad sign when a presidential aspirant is asked the kind of questions White House hopefuls are always asked, and he already seems entirely out of his depth.
 

Ben Carson

Ben Carson and the 'learning curve of a candidate'