A couple of months ago, retired far-right neurosurgeon Ben Carson acknowledged that the "learning curve of a candidate" can be daunting. The Republican presidential hopeful conceded he still has a lot to learn "in terms of becoming both a better candidate and a better potential president."
But if he's trying to brush up on the basics of how the U.S. government works, Carson clearly has quite a bit of ground to make up.
Yesterday on Newsmax TV, Ben Carson said that the federal government does not need to recognize a Supreme Court decision on gay marriage because the president is only obligated to recognize laws passed by Congress, not judicial rulings. "First of all, we have to understand how the Constitution works, the president is required to carry out the laws of the land, the laws of the land come from the legislative branch," Carson said. "So if the legislative branch creates a law or changes a law, the executive branch has a responsibly to carry it out. It doesn't say they have the responsibility to carry out a judicial law."
All of this, regrettably, was on video.
As should be obvious to anyone who passed Civics 101 at a high-school level, the U.S. Supreme Court has the final word on the constitutionality of American laws. Sometimes, the legislative branch passes a law, but it's challenged in the courts, and if a high court majority strikes it down, then it can't legally be enforced by the executive branch.
There is no such thing as "a judicial law."
The fact that Carson doesn't understand this is alarming. The fact that he prefaced his comments by saying we "have to understand how the Constitution works" is rather sad.
It also gets back to something we talked about the other day: the Republican doctor seems badly confused about some pretty basic stuff.
GQ recently profiled the Republican doctor under the headline, “What If Sarah Palin Were a Brain Surgeon?” In the piece, Carson was asked to name his favorite secretary of the treasury. He eventually replied, “Andrea Mitchell’s husband.”
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 article was published around the time Carson did another interview in which he seemed confused about NATO and suggested violence among Islamic radicals dates back several centuries before Islam even existed.
At the time, he denounced the importance of “little details.”
It's certainly possible that Carson can learn more as the campaign progresses, just as it's possible that primary voters won't hold his missteps against him. But it's incidents like these that suggest Carson's future as a national candidate is probably going to be quite limited.