Republican presidential candidate retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson answers questions at the Commonwealth Club public affairs forum Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in San Francisco.
Photo by Eric Risberg/AP

Carson doubles down on his imagined heroism

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson commented yesterday on last week’s mass-shooting in Oregon, subtly criticizing the victims of the mass murder for failing to respond to the crisis the way he imagines he would have.
“Not only would I probably not cooperate with [the armed madman], I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” the GOP candidate said yesterday morning. “I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.’”
It was a callous display from a presidential candidate who has no idea how he’d respond to such a life-threatening crisis.
Yesterday afternoon, a reporter asked if he’d clarify his statement. “Okay,” Carson replied. “What needs clarification?” The reporter added, “I guess there’s an implication that you’re saying that the students didn’t do enough to save themselves.”
Carson answered, “No, I just said nothing about that. I said what I would do.”
On Fox News last night, Megyn Kelly asked Carson to elaborate further. According to the Fox transcript, the Republican said he’s “laughing at” his critics and “their silliness.”
CARSON: Of course, you know, if everybody attacks that gunman, he’s not going to kill everybody. But if you sit there and let him shoot you one by one, you’re all going to be dead. And you know, maybe these are things that people don’t think about, it’s certainly something that I would be thinking about.
KELLY: But don’t you allow for that notion that in a time of great stress like that, one might not know exactly what to do. And to judge them, to sound like you’re judging them –
B. CARSON: I’m not judging them at all, but, you know, these incidents continue to occur. I doubt that this will be the last one. I want to plant the seed in people’s minds so that if this happens again, you know, they don’t all get killed.
As a rule, when discussing the victims of a mass murder, I might recommend avoiding phrases such as, “I’m not judging them at all, but…”
Between the multiple interviews yesterday, it’s clear Carson hasn’t the foggiest idea why anyone would find his comments controversial. From his perspective, he’s offering common sense – Carson believes if he were in a room full of people, and a gunman started shooting, he’d run at the lunatic. The Republican presidential hopeful wants each of us to remember to be as brave and heroic as he imagines himself to be.
What Carson obviously doesn’t understand is … everything else.
When he says, for example, “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” the implication is that the victims in Oregon did just stand there and let the gunman shoot them. The man who wasn’t in the room is indirectly judging the people who were, suggesting he’d show the courage they did not.
And that’s a ridiculous posture for anyone to take, especially someone seeking the nation’s highest office.
At its core, this comes down to breathtaking arrogance. Look again at what Carson said on Fox News last night about running at the gunman: “[M]aybe these are things that people don’t think about, it’s certainly something that I would be thinking about.”
Right. Of course. Carson, who’s never confronted with such a terrifying nightmare, feels certain that he knows exactly how he’d respond when staring down the barrel of a gun held by a madman. He knows what he’d be thinking and how he’d respond – and Carson sees this imaginary hero within as a model for everyone.
For those who have the nerve to suggest such shallow bravado is callous, Carson is inclined to “laugh” at “their silliness.”
As we talked about yesterday, Carson probably doesn’t intend to insult the victims, indirectly blaming them for failing to meet his standards for bravery. But imagine being the parent of one of the young people killed in Oregon last week, and seeing a presidential candidate talking about how graceful he’d be under fire – unlike those who actually faced the nightmare and were shot.