Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who’s lashed out against what he considers unfair treatment by the media, isn’t getting any sympathy from President Obama.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday the recent questions about Carson’s biography — specifically whether he embellished stories about his violent youth and an offer to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point —are entirely appropriate.
“This process is good for our democracy. It’s not easy to run for president. It shouldn’t be. And people who run for president are going to have their claims scrutinized, particularly about their own biography,” Earnest said.
After a week of intense scrutiny (on his views on the Egyptian pyramids, on whether he truly tried to stab someone, on whether he was offered a full scholarship to West Point), Ben Carson declared he had enough. “I have always said that I expect to be vetted. But being vetted and what is going on with me, ‘You said this 30 years ago, you said this 20 years ago, this didn’t exist, this didn’t.’ You know, I just, I have not seen that with anyone else,” Carson told NBC’s Chris Jansing. “Or if you can show me where that’s happened with someone else, I will take that statement back.” Well, here’s our try: We found a combined 165 New York Times and Washington Post articles that were all (or partially) about Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright between the time Obama first launched his presidential bid (Feb. 2007) and his 2008 victory (Nov. 2008). During that same time period, we found an additional 41 New York Times and Washington Post pieces on Obama and Bill Ayers. And from the start of her campaign (April 2015) until now, we discovered a combined 44 NYT/WaPo articles about Hillary Clinton and her email server. Our friend Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post even wrote a post entitled: “Why I’ve written 50 posts on Hillary Clinton’s emails.” Bottom line: When you’re atop of the presidential polls, you’re going to get scrutiny — lots of it.
And while our system of picking a president is imperfect — especially when it comes to the news media’s role in it — do realize this: It’s maybe the closest simulation to actually being in the Oval Office. For all of the attention Obama received on Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, those stories paled in comparison to the intense scrutiny of the BP spill, selling the health-care law, dealing with the HealthCare.Gov crash, and reacting to the party’s 2010 and 2014 midterm losses. For George W. Bush, his presidency went through the ringer of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, Harriet Miers, the Social Security-reform push, and the financial crash. So if you can’t deal with the news media picking apart your autobiography and your past speeches, you probably won’t be able to deal with the bad news that inevitably comes your way as president.
Mr. Trump said that he has endured harsher treatment over the years, adding that he is held to a different standard than the retired neurosurgeon.
“If I did and said what he did and said, I would have been given the electric chair,” Mr. Trump said in an interview Monday with the Wall Street Journal.
“I’ve been treated far worse and I’ve had great achievement in life. But I think I’ve been treated far worse by the press than he has.”
The 2016 Committee, a “super PAC” that was formed to draft Mr. Carson into the race, has hired a media team that will be given the task of showcasing a different side of the doctor and share the perspective of the people he has treated.
“The liberal media and powerful political establishment are doing everything they can to undermine Dr. Carson’s integrity,” wrote John Philip Sousa IV, chairman of committee, in an email to supporters of Mr. Carson. “But we’re committed to staying positive and telling America about the ways Dr. Carson has saved lives.”…
As part of a strategy to counteract the negative publicity, Mr. Carson’s supporters want to reveal the bedside manner of the candidate who is famous for being the first surgeon to separate twins who were joined at the head. The group has contracted Cooke Pictures and Savannah Communications to create “cutting-edge video and television” work for the committee and it is seeking former patients of Mr. Carson to participate in the filming.
“There is no time to waste,” Mr. Sousa said. “This is your chance to stand up for Ben Carson.”
Perhaps “happy” isn’t the best word, but the Ben Carson campaign is at least confident it has weathered the quick-forming storm over questionable details in Carson’s various autobiographical writings.
“We’re going to have a more-than-$10-million month again,” said Barry Bennett, Carson’s campaign manager, in a phone conversation Sunday night. “We’re at four million already.”
Bennett noted that after the campaign raised $10.8 million in October, media attacks on Carson appear to have spurred supporters to give even more. In recent days Carson has received more than 80,000 new contributions — that is, from people who have not given to Carson before, Bennett said. He also said Carson has added more than 160,000 new likes on Facebook…
Still, Carson’s Republican opponents — not the outspokenly critical Donald Trump but the others who are frustrated by Carson’s Teflon Ben immunity to criticism — believe those reports could eventually have a cumulative effect. “These are the types of things that don’t end a campaign,” said a strategist for a rival candidate. “What they do is force voters to take a closer look at who you are and your record.” According to this line of thinking, scrutiny on irrelevant topics — whether Carson smacked somebody as a child half a century ago — will eventually lead to scrutiny on relevant topics, such as his positions on issues like abortion and guns.
I read in Talking Points Memo this morning that Ben Carson just had a “very bad week.” I must have been watching a different week, because it sure looked to me like the candidate came out ahead…
The sheer sloppiness of the Politico story has cast a shadow over every other bit of vetting that the candidate is getting. If you never were going to cast a ballot for Carson anyway, that shadow might not be visible. But among the voters he’s aiming for, the media-persecution narrative writes itself…
I won’t be surprised if we learn that some of the stories in Carson’s autobiography are indeed exaggerated or false. (Is there any genre as unreliable as the “inspirational memoir”?) And I don’t ultimately expect Carson to be the Republican nominee: He’s the sort of candidate who soars in early polls and perhaps even does well in Iowa, but those aren’t always the people who actually win the final prize. But I don’t think anything that happened in the past week is going to play a big role in bringing his flight to an end. If anything, it could keep his lead alive longer.
The head of the Republican Party defended Ben Carson on Monday against the media’s “crazy obsession” with the candidate and his past.
“I would imagine some questions are appropriate, but I do believe that this is a totally crazy obsession over incredible details from 30 and 40 years ago,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told Matt Lauer on “Today.”
He went on to suggest there’s a double standard for Carson compared to Hillary Clinton.
“The fact is we kind of wish the media would be just as obsessed or half obsessed with Hillary Clinton’s lies of many years about really relevant things, like people who have died in Benghazi and her emails.”
The attention paid to Carson may not be unfair, but it is — in the strictest sense — different. Media probing usually begins with a candidate’s professional conduct. Carson’s examination got personal right away…
But the reason for the difference is probably less nefarious than Carson would have his supporters believe. It’s in large part because he simply doesn’t have a professional record that lends itself to that kind of analysis.
Carson has not held elected office, so there are no votes on controversial bills to rehash, no prior campaign promises to check and no former aides to pump for revelations. Unlike Romney, whose business career was full of decisions that could be easily understood — and second-guessed — Carson spent his professional life in neurosurgery, a field far beyond the grasp of laymen…
In the media, really all we’re left with is Carson’s personal narrative, which is basically what he’s running on. It’s only natural that reporters would take a hard look at that.
3. Own your narrative. There are two kinds of candidates; Brand Candidates and Message Candidates. Brand Candidates are folks like Trump, Carson, Bush, and Clinton; you know them as a brand, not as a philosophy. Message Candidates like Rubio, Cruz, and Sanders are known for what they’re about, not just who they are.
Both types must have control, fluency, and discipline about their personal narrative and storytelling process. They need to review and practice and vet their own history, and for the rough spots have a narrative arc taking them from origin to the present day. It needs to be consistent, pared down of too many exaggerations (I know, it’s tempting) and flourishes. The irony of Carson’s trouble this week is that his overall story is remarkable, but his defense of his narrative has been amateurish and damaging.
4. This is the Big Show. Act like it. You’re asking Americans to trust you with the highest office in the land. You’re asking them to let you serve as Commander in Chief in the real, brutal world as it is, not the confection of gauzy, Sorkinesque fantasies where moral suasion trumps realpolitik. You’re asking them to trust you with the command of nuclear weapons. Does acting like a petulant child about your media coverage communicate confidence and strength?
Don’t be a thin-skinned whiner.
There is absolutely no doubt that Carson is being treated very differently because he is a conservative and even more so because he is black (and therefore a threat to the media’s entire worldview). The media’s standards for engagement are simply far tougher on conservatives than on liberals. This is just not debatable, but those are the “rules” which the news media has created.
However, Carson can be treated very unfairly by the press and still also be a fraud. These two possibilities are hardly mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe the evidence strongly suggests that they are both simultaneously true…
I believe that Carson’s surgeon ego and lack of understanding of (or respect for) the arduous application process at West Point allowed him to create a convenient exaggeration in his life narrative. Alone this would not be a very big deal (especially considering the whoppers that Hillary Clinton has told about being under attack and being named for people who weren’t famous yet when she was born), but if they are part of a larger “Brian Williams Problem,” they are deadly to a conservative with a media bullseye on their back.
However, because Politico’s “fabrication” headline was so absurd that it had to be corrected, Carson and his allies in the conservative media have been able to turn this into a “Media Malpractice” issue. This not only has created an instinctive “rally around the attacked” effect (something which was sorely missing for Sarah Palin in 2008), but it has automatically cast all of the other stories exposing suspicious elements of the Carson narrative into a nefarious “left wing conspiracy” light, at least among his many supporters.
In the end, Carson could lose support if his personal narrative proves untrustworthy. Trump? If he falters, it probably won’t be due to re-evaluations of his character.
The divergence reveals how fundamentally different their campaigns are, despite surface similarities. Trump is running as a mechanical genius who can fix all manner of stuff — borders, trade agreements, manufacturing base, national debt. Carson is running as a redeemer who can restore American Eden, paving the way for Christian righteousness to reign throughout the land. Neither claim is remotely plausible. But unlike Trump’s calling card, which emphasizes his skills rather than his heart, Carson’s claim is utterly dependent on the content of his character. If that content becomes suspect, the rationale for his candidacy erodes…
Trump can afford a flawed character. He can use cunning, and fudge at the margins, provided he brings the trophy home in the end. Carson is supposed to win, too. But he has to do so while being a model of sportsmanship and superior virtue…
[P]ersonal virtue is a fragile foundation for a presidential campaign and Eden makes for a difficult platform. If Carson’s religious narratives turn out to look more like contingency than destiny, his support will likely crumble. Having established a claim to sacred space, Carson can’t be seen sharing it with Mammon.
It’s bonkers that Carson and the media are debating not only whether he lied about getting admitted to West Point, but also about whether he attempted to stab a childhood friend — and Carson is the one arguing that he did! This is sketch comedy, not a campaign. And as his biography continues to get shredded, it will become a farce…
Evangelicals will not win by looking for an anointed man of God and giving him license to whip the rest of the Republican Party and country into shape. These efforts are a way of seceding from normal American politics, both as a matter of imagination and as a practical endeavor of networking and staffing. The Carson campaign is a despair of politics, an attempt to outsource a movement’s hustle and everyday righteousness to a single hero…
Carson is diverting monetary, emotional, and organizational resources away from the real long-term work of evangelical politics. He has no ideas to offer his party, which is in need of them. He has no political leadership skills for a culture that is desperate for them. He is pulling evangelical influence and resources away from candidates who can win, which ultimately enhances the grip of the more secular, more liberal Republican establishment. This is political malpractice.