Oddly, the reason Ben Carson gives for endorsing Donald Trump is the same reason other Republicans urge voters to oppose him. “There are two different Donald Trumps,” Carson explained in his endorsement speech at Mar-a-Lago, echoing complaints from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio that it’s impossible to reconcile the fire-breathing populist of today with the man who cut checks for Hillary Clinton and John Kerry over the last dozen years. Carson instead claimed that Trump’s fiery and nsubstantial approach to politics hides a “cerebral” persona, one Trump will show to voters as he wraps up the nomination:
“Why would you get behind a man like Donald Trump? I’ll tell you why,” Carson told reporters gathered in Palm Beach, Florida. “I’ve come to know Donald Trump over the last few years. He is actually a very intelligent man who cares deeply about America.”
“There are two different Donald Trumps,” he added. “There’s one you see on the stage and there’s the one who’s very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully. You can have a very good conversation with him. And that’s the Donald Trump you’re going to start seeing more and more of right now.”
“There’s a lot more alignment” on positions between himself and the businessman, Carson said, both “philosophically and spiritually.”
Lots of people will marvel at that claim, given that the performances of the two men could not possibly have been more philosophically different. Carson’s mild-mannered and soft-spoken approach contrasted with everyone else on the debate stage and on the stump, arguing for a more ethical approach to politics in general. The contrast was most stark with Trump’s brash manner, tossing personal insults at critics and opponents — including Carson himself. Less than four months ago, Trump called Carson “pathological” and compared him to a child molester:
“It’s in the book that he’s got a pathological temper,” Trump told “Erin Burnett OutFront,” speaking about Carson’s autobiography. “That’s a big problem because you don’t cure that … as an example: child molesting. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. Pathological, there’s no cure for that.”
In his 1990 autobiography, “Gifted Hands,” Carson attributes violent behavior in his youth to his “disease,” a “pathological temper” that the Republican presidential hopeful said caused him to strike one friend with a rock and attempt to stab another. In subsequent accounts of his violent youth, Carson said he once attempted to attack his mother with a hammer.
“I’m not bringing up anything that’s not in his book,” Trump told Erin Burnett. “You know, when he says he went after his mother and wanted to hit her in the head with a hammer, that bothers me. I mean, that’s pretty bad. When he says he’s pathological — and he says that in the book, I don’t say that — and again, I’m not saying anything, I’m not saying anything other than pathological is a very serious disease. And he said he’s pathological, somebody said he has pathological disease.”
When asked about that philosophical and spiritual dichotomy, Carson shrugged it off as just business as usual:
Carson dismissed some of the attacks Trump had leveled at him while the retired doctor was still a top contender in the GOP primary.
“We buried the hatchet,” Carson said, noting that it was just “political stuff.”
With Trump, that’s no doubt true. It’s equally true with the Cruz campaign’s efforts to use Carson’s odd scheduling announcement and CNN’s speculation after a debate to argue that Carson was bowing out of the race after the Iowa caucuses finished. Carson and his team seemed to take that a lot more personally than being compared to a child molester and repeatedly called irretrievably pathological by the candidate himself. One seems a lot more philosophically and spiritually suspect than the other, but YMMV, I suppose.
Yesterday on Twitter, I argued that this endorsement shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Carson’s raison d’être in this campaign was that the nation needed a new kind of president, an outsider of the usual political establishments, to restore the voice of We The People. Once Carson got out, who else would fit that bill in his estimation? Certainly not John Kasich, and in this cycle not Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz, who has taken fighting his own party to an art form over the last four years. Kowtowing to the vox populi (and vox populism) takes precedence over campaign ethics when it comes to We The People.
Many expressed disappointment over Carson’s decision, and a few thought it would end his relationship with movement conservatives. Don’t bet on it, though. Carson’s outspokenness and his faith journey will still endear him to many (as it should), but the measure of Carson’s hop on the Trump bandwagon will come if and when Trump wins the nomination, at the general election — and what will transpire if a Trump presidency comes to pass. Until then, expect to see warm welcomes for Carson among conservative groups for some time to come.