A US Secret Service Agent stands guard as Republican President candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at Liberty University, on Nov. 11, 2015 in Lynchburg, Va.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty

Carson brings his message to Falwell’s Liberty U

Fresh off his latest odd debate performance, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson traveled to Virginia yesterday, where he spoke to a crowd of nearly 12,000 at Liberty University, an evangelical school founded by the late Jerry Falwell.
 
And while the bulk of Carson’s remarks were about his background, faith, and vision, the retired right-wing neurosurgeon also reportedly took aim at, of all things, Bernie Sanders’ higher-ed plan. The Hill reported yesterday:
“If people are not well informed, they just [listen to] unscrupulous politicians and news media and off the people go in the completely wrong direction, listening to all kinds of propaganda and inculcating that into their way of thinking,” the GOP White House hopeful said.
 
“It becomes easy to swallow things. If you don’t understand our financial situation and someone comes along and says, ‘free college for everybody,’ they’ll say, ‘oh how wonderful,’ and have no idea they’re talking about hastening the destruction of the nation.”
First, I’m not sure Carson should be giving lectures on the importance of people being “well informed.”
 
Second, Sanders’ plan, while ambitious, would cost about $75 billion per year over the course of the next decade, which in turn would make college tuition effectively free (the way we already make K-12 education free).
 
If implemented, American students would be able to graduate without crushing debts, bringing them in line with young adults in many other advanced democracies.
 
One may see this as worthwhile or not, but a $75 billion investment in higher-ed would not “destroy” anything.
 
As for the larger context, I’m curious when Liberty U, a school founded by a radical TV preacher, became such an important stop on the road to the White House.
 
As we talked about in May, appearances at the Virginia school have become increasingly common for national candidates. In 2006. for example, it was John McCain delivering the commencement address at Liberty, in advance of his second presidential campaign, standing alongside the televangelist he’d condemned eight years earlier as an “agent of intolerance.”
 
In 2012, it was Mitt Romney who was eager to speak to Liberty students. In 2013, Rand Paul spoke at Liberty, presenting others’ words as his own. This year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) kicked off his presidential campaign at the evangelical school, and Jeb Bush spoke at Liberty’s commencement.
 
Even Bernie Sanders himself made a Liberty appearance this year.
 
It doesn’t get much attention, but it’s probably worth noting that Liberty University is burdened with an ironic name. The restrictions placed on Liberty’s students are the stuff of legend – its code of conduct dictates that students are prohibited from seeing R-rated movies, listening to music that is not “in harmony with God’s word,” drinking alcohol, dancing, or kissing. Women on campus are prohibited from wearing dresses or skirts “shorter than the top of the knee.”
 
Meanwhile, a couple of years ago, however, Liberty announced that students would be allowed to carry loaded firearms on campus.
 
Somehow, this became the school so many White House hopefuls want to visit?
 
 

Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders and Higher Education

Carson brings his message to Falwell’s Liberty U