Following the recent CNN poll which showed Dr. Ben Carson near the top of the pack of potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders, the media has turned their rather jaundiced eye on him in a more serious fashion. One of the most attractive features about a possible Carson candidacy, at least in the eyes of many conservatives, is the fact that he’s not a politician. The pediatric neurosurgeon is pretty much the poster icon of a Washington outsider. But as a few recent interviews show, the fact that he’s not a politician can have a downside as well, as he seems to be showing his lack of media chops coming out of the gate.
One basic element of Carson’s approach thus far has been to portray himself as a reluctant savior of the union, not really desiring to be President, but feeling called to duty for the greater good. It’s not a bad angle to take, but he’s getting a bit carried away with it.
Ben Carson, a potential contender for the GOP presidential nomination, said that running for president “has not been a goal” and called the position “horrible and stressful.”
“I’m not sure that anybody wants to put themselves in that kind of horrible and stressful situation, that has never been a goal of mine,” Carson told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday…
“However, I do recognize that the direction of our country is not a good one…many Americans have been indicating that they want me to [run], so whether I want to do it or not, I do feel an obligation to at least very seriously consider the possibility.”
There’s really been no question among political observers for the past year that Ben Carson would like to be President, but we can forgive him this particular posturing. It makes for a good profile. But he needs to also remember that one of the baseline template questions every candidate will face is, why do you want to be President? Whatever answer you give is undermined a bit if you’re on record calling the job “horrible.” He should also drop the “whether I want to do it or not” language. That’s not inspiring to the army of supporters he’ll need to make it through the primary.
The second example is perhaps a bit more telling. No matter how awful you feel the current administration is doing or how sorry the current state of the nation may be, there’s one important rule somebody should have taught Dr. Carson. You never compare the United States to Nazi Germany.
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson stood by his controversial comparison of the United States to Nazi Germany in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday.
Asked by Blitzer whether he would amend or take back his comments, Carson said “Absolutely not.”
Carson made the comments during a March interview with conservative news outlet Breitbart.com. He noted that the Third Reich was “using its tools to intimidate the population,” and said that “we now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”
Again, I completely understand where Carson was going with this. When the government is using the Internal Revenue Service, the NSA, the EPA and God only knows how many other agencies to go after and intimidate its own citizens, there’s a problem. It’s a significant issue to run on. And clearly Germany did the same and far worse during Hitler’s reign. But… again… you just don’t say that. All you’re doing is tossing up a big red flag to attract the bulls and giving them something to hang around your neck while distracting from your core message.
Neither of these stumbles are fatal and Carson should be able to assemble a good team and move forward, building on his strong, early showing in the polls. But he’s entering into a pool of sharks and he needs some swimming lessons pronto.