Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Is Ben Carson Finally (and Belatedly) Finished?

The 2016 GOP presidential nominee clown car continues to be a train wreck and a frightening one at that.  The good news? Ben Carson, the GOP's idiot savant du jour, seems to finally falling in the polls.  Between being utterly unqualified for the presidency and faced with increased scrutiny in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, GOP voters apparently are belatedly realizing that Carson has no business in the White House or any elected office.  The scary part is that a significant number of Republicans are either so stupid or crazy (or both) that Carson ever rose to second place in numerous polls.  A piece in Salon looks at what we can only hope is the beginning of Carson's implosion.  Here are highlights:
Ben Carson has had a great run. He has no experience, no knowledge of the issues, and no real inclination to learn the things he has to learn in order to run for office. In every debate so far, he’s embarrassed himself with meandering non-answers. Oftentimes it’s not clear Carson even understands the question he’s been asked, and that’s pretty much the case across topics.

Remarkably, none of that has mattered in this race. Carson has slithered his way to the top of the polls in recent months, and he appeared well-positioned at least until the Iowa caucuses. Carson’s only real competition thus far has been Trump.
But things have changed.   It appears the recent terrorist attacks in Paris have awakened GOP primary voters from their slumber – well, sort of. And that’s bad news for Carson, who just had one of his worst weeks as a presidential candidate. In case you missed it, Carson stumbled last week when he mistakenly claimed that China was militarily involved in Syria. He then failed to name the nations he would ask to join a coalition against ISIS.

Things spiraled further out of control for the retired neurosurgeon when his own foreign policy adviser questioned his understanding of and interest in the issues.

Even in a party that devalues experience and champions know-nothingism, this is a potential death knell for Carson’s campaign.

The attacks in Paris, for better or worse, have pushed national security and foreign policy to the top of the Republican agenda. Discussions about ISIS and Syria and Iraq will dominate the debate for the foreseeable future. Carson sounds like a fatuous gasbag on virtually all topics save for neuroscience, but he’s especially bad on foreign policy.

And his numbers are starting to reflect that.  A NBC poll released last week shows that Trump has solidified his frontrunner spot in the wake of Paris, mostly because of his openly fascistic calls to surveil Mosques, reinstate waterboarding, and register all Muslims in a “database.” Carson, however, who was tied with Trump as recently as two weeks ago, has dropped 8 points and is now tied with Ted Cruz at 18 percent.

Things look worse for Carson in Iowa, where his evangelical base is most concentrated. A report by Politico over the weekend confirms that Carson is in trouble. The terror attacks have changed the conversation, and Carson is the obvious loser. “He’s a great guy, he’s fun to listen to, but I didn’t hear anything substantive,” said one Iowa-based GOP voter, who now ranks national security as an “extremely high” priority.

Carson’s downward slide is likely to continue in the coming weeks. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and it’s too late to pretend otherwise. Unlike Trump, who at least has an obnoxious but successful tough guy shtick, Carson’s nice guy routine won’t play well in this political climate.

All of this is great news for Ted Cruz. Cruz doesn’t have any meaningful foreign policy experience, but he is an active U.S. Senator and, more importantly, he’s quite good at sounding like he knows what he’s talking about. His rhetorical gifts will serve him well in this debate. Cruz can pander to Christians as well or better than Carson, and he knows it. Having some actual experience as a politician will make him far more appealing to conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere who want their foreign policy bravado served with a dash of religious lunacy.

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