Monday, November 16, 2015

Carson's liabilities

I'll say a few things about Ben Carson. To begin with, if it was a choice between Trump and Carson in the primaries, I'd vote for Carson in a heartbeat. Likewise, it if was a choice between Hillary and Carson in the general, I'd vote for Carson in a heartbeat. 

I don't know quite how to account for Carson's popularity. I think it's partly due to some conservative voters who seek a protest candidate, and he's more acceptable than Trump. 

Thus far there's been a disconnect between his popularity and his debate performances. There's an ironic sense in which Carson is intellectually lazy–something he shares in common with Trump. "Ironic," I say, because he's very intellectually disciplined when it comes to neurology. But outside his specialization, Carson seems to think his personal experience of triumph over adversity equips him with all he really needs to know to make domestic and foreign policy judgments.

One reason that hasn't hurt him thus far may be that his reputation precedes him. He's been a regular on the 700 Club. So I'm guessing he had a following even before he threw his hat into the ring. And it's the kind of following that's normally invisible to pundits, because they don't move in the same circles or watch the same media. 

Likewise, there's a movie about him–the kind of inspirational movie that's family viewing for a certain Christian audience. Here's a review: 

All this flies under the radar of the pundits.

One of Carson's potential political liabilities is that his so much of his popularity is based on personal appeal and his inspirational biography. That means he has nothing to fall back on if his reputation is tarnished. 

In that respect, one problem is his use of ghostwriters who embellished his record. In addition, there's evidence that he himself has a weakness for flattering tall tales: 

In addition, he used to be pro-abortion:

One would like to know when and why he supposedly become prolife. 

Actually, his (former?) pro-abortion position is consistent with his Seventh-Day Adventist faith. Although it has a conservative reputation, it takes a very liberal position on abortion. And not just on paper. SDA hospitals routinely perform elective/theraputic abortions: 

In that respect, it's not surprising that he used to be pro-abortion. One wonders how firm his current prolife posture actually is.

Then there's his reported position on the infamous Terri Schiavo case:

He has a bad habit of attempting to wing it on very serious issues. 


  1. The fact that Carson chose to run in the first place is problematic. It suggests something bad about his character. If you're as ignorant of the issues and inexperienced as Carson, and the Republicans already have such a strong field without you, why would you run?

    We should keep in mind that the recent emphasis on outsiders is just that: recent. Six months ago, how many Republicans were saying that we need an outsider? Not many. The notion that we want or need an outsider seems to be an after-the-fact attempt to justify people's unjustifiable support for Trump and Carson. Notice how little concern those same people have for applying their reasoning to Fiorina, even though she's more knowledgeable of the issues and a better communicator and debater than Trump and Carson. Yet, she's in the low single digits in the polls. Being outsiders had little to do with why Trump and Carson were initially supported, but now the notion that we should have an outsider is being used prominently as an after-the-fact justification for supporting them.

    1. It may not be a matter of bad character. It just may be a manifestation of the The Dunning–Kruger effect. Also, in his mind he might believe God has so prospered his life's endeavors thus far (most things he's touched turning to gold) that he just assumes that God will bless his efforts in the political realm. It's not uncommon for successful people in one field to think they will be successful in other (or every) field they enter. Trump suffers from that too, along with his massive ego.

      For those who don't know, the Dunning–Kruger effect is [quoting wikipedia] "a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately. Their research also suggests that conversely, highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them also are easy for others."

  2. Minor correction--Dr. Carson is a neurosurgeon by training and practice, not a neurologist. Different specialties.

  3. I have a hard time understanding his position on health care. He's said that under his administration, everyone would be given a "health savings account" that they could use for health care. I don't know how much he's elaborated on it. Where does the money for this account come from? If it comes from the user, then how is that an improvement over the current system? If it comes from the gov't, then how is that different from socialism?

    1. Carson has advocated creating a health savings account (HSA) for every American citizen from the time of birth. Parents can contribute some percentage of their pre-tax income to the HSA. He also believes these HSAs should be passed down from parents to children.

      Of course, whether this is feasible is a different question.

    2. Ok, but it seems to me that people can already open their own bank accounts and use it to contribute to health savings as they wish. It's hard to see how Carson's approach is any kind of a solution at all.

    3. Semper Reformanda

      "Ok, but it seems to me that people can already open their own bank accounts and use it to contribute to health savings as they wish. It's hard to see how Carson's approach is any kind of a solution at all."

      Well, as I mentioned, I think a key difference between Carson's HSA plan and using our own bank accounts is being able to contribute pre-tax income.

      However, I'd quickly add, I don't necessarily disagree with you, I don't think. I don't defend Carson's HSA plan. I think there could be potential problems and pitfalls.

    4. I could be entirely wrong, but I'm assuming Carson modeled his plan on something like this: "Pros And Cons Of A Health Savings Account (HSA)."

  4. Many people overlook the the office of POTUS is also CIC of the Armed Forces. What bothers me is that we aren't getting much in the way of candidates with some kind of military experience. I guess, for that, Carson is on about the same standing as everyone else. My concern would be for any hesitancy to deploy military assets if necessary given his notable career as a physician. Something tells me that he will be seen as weak by other world leaders in this respect.

    1. I just watched (listened in the background to) this interview with Carson. It was entirely on foreign policy in the aftermath of Paris. The questions were fair. However, what's evident is how utterly unprepared Carson is. It's (sadly) almost embarrassing.

    2. I wonder how the candidates' lack of military experience compares with Hillary's utterly disastrous military experience.