Ben Carson, Political Ignoramus

While a brilliant and accomplished man, he's absolutely clueless about politics and world affairs.

Dr. Ben Carson Speaks At Launch Of New Media Online Network In Scottsdale, Arizona

My co-blogger Doug Mataconis argues at length that Ben Carson’s repeated conflation of the budget and the debt ceiling is proof that he’s a zealot appeasing the worst elements of the Tea Party. As someone who has been a political news junkie for decades, Doug simply can’t believe someone could be so clueless, especially when the interviewer is desperately trying to explain the distinction. But everything I’ve seen of Carson going back to the first debate leads me to believe that, yes, he’s that clueless.

Seven years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a post titled “Sarah Palin, Ignoramus.” I explained, in part,

She’s likable and, I presume, of above average intelligence.  She is, however, utterly lacking in knowledge or training about matters of public policy, law, or international affairs that one expects a vice presidential nominee to bring to the table.

I didn’t call her an idiot or a moron. I don’t think she’s too stupid to learn about any of those things but she’s demonstrably spent the first 44 years of her life without displaying the curiosity to do so.

Scott Adams (of “Dilbert” fame) says we’re all idiots, just about different things.  Sarah Palin knows more about moose hunting and snowmobiling than I’ll ever know.  Unfortunately, those things are of only tertiary help for one who could, in a little over four months, be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Based on his credentials, I’d guess Carson has a higher IQ than Palin and, indeed, me. But based on his media interviews and the two Republican debates thus far, he makes Palin look like a Rhodes Scholar.  (Aristotle? Plato? Socrates? Morons.)

To some degree, that’s not shocking. While she ultimately demonstrated that she was unprepared for the vice presidency, she had significant political accomplishment. She’d first been elected to the Wasilla City Council in 1992–16 years before McCain tabbed her to be his running mate–and was elected mayor in 1996, serving two terms. She ran and lost for lieutenant governor, was appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and ultimately elected governor in 2006.

While nothing about her performance on the national level suggests that she was particularly studious about policy, it’s reasonable to presume she developed some significant knowledge about local and state government over the span of that career. She simply didn’t have the curiosity about national and international politics that would have prepared her to seriously discuss those issues. (In fairness to her, the strategy of Team McCain in preparing her for and handling her media appearances did her no favors, either.)

Carson’s career has been nothing short of extraordinary. He’s not only a retired neurosurgeon, impressive enough on its own, but was a pioneer and leader in his field. He’s an incredibly talented and accomplished man. Nor was he a mere technician. The list of awards he’s received over the years—I’m relying on Wikipedia here—shows a breadth of involvement in the community:

-In 2000, he received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
-In 2001, he was elected by the Library of Congress on the occasion of its 200th anniversary to be one of the 89 who earned the designation Library of Congress Living Legend.
-In 2004, he was appointed to serve on The President’s Council on Bioethics.
-In 2005, Carson was awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership.
-In 2006, he received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, their highest honor for outstanding achievement.
-In 2008, the White House awarded Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
-In 2008, Ford’s Theatre Society awarded Carson the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal, for exemplifying the qualities embodied by President Abraham Lincoln—including courage, integrity, tolerance, equality, and creative expression—through superior achievements.
-In 2008, U.S. News & World Report named Carson as one of “America’s Best Leaders”
-In 2010, he was elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine

One would expect a man with those credentials to be interested in world affairs, if too busy to spend hours a weak reading news and commentary. But by all recent indications, he simply doesn’t know much about the world of politics and policy. Your average 24-year-old TownHall or Heritage staffer knows more about the issues—or, at least, can talk about them in a more nuanced fashion—than Carson. The good doctor seems to have barely mastered the broadest talking points.

I’d be willing to chalk this all up to priorities. Again, a man who has pioneered radical advances in brain surgery, led academic and surgical departments, and been a philanthropist on the side might be a tad busy. What I can’t fathom is why he hasn’t seen fit during the months he’s been actively running for the most powerful policy job on the planet to throw his considerable energy and brain power into boning up.

UPDATE: (Originally written in the comment thread.) With Palin, a career politician, I was somewhat contemptuous that she’d displayed so little curiosity about and put so little mental energy into her chosen profession. I’m not at all disappointed in Carson for having devoted his mental energy into saving people’s lives and making them better. But, if he’s even remotely serious about being president—or just using the campaign as a platform to get a message out—he needs to throw himself into it in the way Arnold Schwarzenegger did when he ran for Governor of California. Or, hell, Barack Obama did when he ran for President in 2008.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Todd says:

    Agree with the post … love the Princess Bride quote snuck in there!

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    I was an engineer. Perhaps not a brilliant one but a good one. While working I spent all of my time keeping up with changes in technology not economics, history or foreign affairs. Technology was changing so rapidly I really did have hours in the day to concentrate on any other subjects. It wasn’t until after I retired that I had the luxury of of studying history and economics. Ben Carson has apparently not taken advantage of his retirement to expand his view of the world.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Ron Beasley: I think that’s exactly right. With Palin, a career politician, I was somewhat contemptuous that she’d displayed so little curiosity about and put so little mental energy into her chosen profession. I’m not at all disappointed in Carson for having devoted his mental energy into saving people’s lives and making them better. But, if he’s even remotely serious about being president—or just using the campaign as a platform to get a message out—he needs to throw himself into it in the way Arnold Schwarzenegger did when he ran for Governor of California. Or, hell, Barack Obama did when he ran for President in 2008.

  4. CSK says:

    This is going to be difficult to explain, but I think the fact that Carson, like Palin, is ignorant of those things is precisely what appeals to his followers. What we see as a dangerous lack of knowledge and experience they regard as a refreshing change from business as usual.

    The thought process goes like this: “We’ve been betrayed by all the politicians we’ve elected, even the Tea Party people. Carson’s not a politician. Carson won’t betray us.”

    I should add that I think Carson is probably more knowledgeable than he lets on. But–and it’s a big but–like Palin and Trump, he knows exactly what his constituency wants to hear, and delivers it to them.

  5. KM says:

    @James:

    One would expect a man with those credentials to be interested in world affairs, if too busy to spend hours a weak reading news and commentary.

    I must stop you there and ask: why? Why do you make the assumption that just because he’s intelligent must mean he’s interested in X, Y or Z?

    It’s stereotyping, plain and simple – positive prejudice like assuming all Asians are good in math. It’s a trope that the gentleman must be wise and well-read, intelligent and worldly to set him apart from his intellectual lessers. Having a high IQ means you scored well on a test with particular subjects, showing great aptitude and creativity does not translate to general competency in disparate subjects. I’ve met countless brilliant people in my life who regularly display what Jeff Foxworthy once referred to as “a glorious absence of sophistication”. Carson is hitting the Foxworthy Redneck moment pretty frequently and I’m willing to bet he’s done so his whole life; nobody’s cared up until now because he’s gotten a pass with the success and innovations he’s created. That’s why he says stupid things like he’d “go fight the gunman” and “fight back” when he freely admits the one time he’s been in a hold up he immediately directed the guy’s attention to the cashier! Even if it was a “joke”, it’s a total Here’s Your Card moment!!

    As for now – all the excuses you gave are still valid in a way. He’s too busy being popular on TV to study his homework. He’s not running for President, he’s running for President. You know, like in high school – a farce of a popularity contest where the most qualified one doesn’t always win if the Queen Bee wants in on the attention? Carson feels his creds and brains should qualify him and everything else he can wing or farm out. Winning!!!

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: Trump is calculatedly giving his audience the simple minded twaddle they want to hear. For Palin it seemed to come naturally.

    Yes, Carson is a wonderful guy, and quite possibly brilliant. But he chose to run for a job for which he is spectacularly ill prepared. Is this the arrogance of a surgeon, or the common belief that conservative common sense trumps expertise? Is it Dunning-Kruger at a massive scale? Or maybe it’s just that, like Herman Caine, Carson started a book promo tour and it ran away with him? Do any of these people have a clue what the President actually does? Do they think they’re running for national prom queen?

  7. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    With Carson, I think part of it is the arrogance of a surgeon, yes, and part of it is a book tour that ran away with him. And the reception he’s getting must be very gratifying to his ego. I’m not sure if he really wants to be president, but there may be a part of him that tells him that because he was a great neurosurgeon, he’ll be great at anything else he attempts. There are people who think that way. Wrongly,but they do.

    As for Palin, I’m not altogether sure she believes all the twaddle she spouts. What I do believe is that she’s one of the shrewdest marketing analysts I’ve ever encountered. She anticipates exactly what her fans want to hear, and gives it to them. Though it’s true her star has dimmed considerably.in the past year or so.

    One of the most interesting articles I ever read about her was “The Tragedy of Sarah Palin” in The Atlantic. It was an analysis of how she deliberately retooled herself from a moderate/liberal Republican into a fire-breathing Christian conservative warrior. There was a neglected segment of the market out there, and she zeroed in on it unerringly. And made a lot of money in the process.

  8. Argon says:

    Somewhere in that timeline you presented you need to add: “Exposed craziness to the world”.

    Everyone, even the most brilliant, have at least one completely wacko perspective about the world that they can’t see. Actually, some of the brilliant are prone to holding on to their notions harder than most. One can only hope that one’s crazy notions don’t intrude in public or professional life.

    Take his stance on evolution: Evolution is incompatible with his religious sect. What is particularly telling is that unlike some religious adherents who will humbly acknowledge that the science and data are strong support for evolution but will regardless humbly stick with their dogma as a matter of faith, Carson has the hubris to claim that the evidence for evolution and a old-earth is poor. This is the trait of the closed minded, to cling to any crappy counter arguments (radioactive decay might not be constant! & etc.) to preserve a preconceived notion. It can be a crippling cognitive bias, particularly when it has been reinforced by a lifetime of accolades in a different field.

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    Well, he’s also spouting his crazy anti-Semitic nonsense about how meek the Jews were and how they didn’t fight back against the Nazis. Overall, I would take a politician who had no idea what the debt limit instead of one who thinks that violence is an answer to all of our problems.

  10. Pat Dickerson says:

    @James Joyner: You need to bone up a little on your profession, Joyner, you quoted Will Rogers, not “Dilbert”! http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/willrogers161235.html

  11. SenyorDave says:

    I honestly think there is some type of disconnect with Carson that prevents him from understanding what sane people will think about some of the things he says. For example, this completely crazy quote:

    8. “I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS.”

    Ben Carson, claiming the AP History curriculum will cause students who learn about civil disobedience in this country to join a violent terrorist group, September 2014.

    or this one:

    10. “So if there were a container of contaminated urine, and somehow it managed to find its way to someplace a lot of damage could be done. Someone comes up to a lab worker. He knows he’s got the urine. ‘How would you like to have a million dollars?’ … Such things have been known to happen.”
    ~Ben Carson, fearmongering over Ebola by saying it could be used a biological weapon even though infectious disease experts disagree, August 2014.

    Remember, this is a world renowned surgeon talking. I have trouble believing that any very intelligence person would say such stupid things knowingly. I just have to believe there is something wrong there.

    Of course, in addition when he isn’t saying crazy stuff he shows to be totally uninformed or incorrect about virtually all aspects of domestic policy, world affairs, etc. The debt limit example being just the latest.

  12. Mikey says:

    @Argon:

    This is the trait of the closed minded, to cling to any crappy counter arguments (radioactive decay might not be constant! & etc.) to preserve a preconceived notion.

    You think that’s bad? You should hear how some Adventists rationalize the appearance of fossils in deep layers. It was the Great Flood, you see, that rearranged the Earth’s surface and got things all mixed up.

    I don’t know if Carson subscribes to that particular nugget–there are some Adventists who accept scientific evidence, to an extent anyway–but so far he hasn’t shown any indication he’s anything but a doctrinaire “young earth” Adventist.

  13. Argon says:
  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Argon: Anyone who is a YEC has, I think, demonstrated an unwillingness to look evidence in its face.

    That’s my definition of an intellectual, by the way. Someone who will throw away a theory he loves if he runs into evidence that contradicts it.

    It’s a DAMN hard skill to learn, because we always want to stick with the theory.

    And I’ve also noticed that a lot of people will be really great about applying this for one part of their lives–say, work–but absolutely terrible in other parts of their lives (accepting that their offspring has committed a crime).

  15. Hal_10000 says:

    @James Joyner:

    This is another way the Party of Reagan had drifted. It used to be that smart people were respected (e.g., Buckley) and politicians were expected to be smart. Gingrich could be a jerk, but was a PhD historian. If you read biographies of Reagan or his own writings, you’ll find a strong intellectual curiosity. But there’s a faction of the GOP now — I call them the Palinistas — who regard actual knowledge and intellectual curiosity with suspicion. Experts, shmexperts. We need someone who is all about America! Witness Palin’s popular but intellectually vacant word salads.

    (This got to a point of absurdity when people tried to compare Palin to Thatcher. Whatever else one thinks of Thatcher, she had a degree in chemistry and a knowledge of policy detail that was almost scary.)

    To some extent, I share their distaste for policy-wonks and eggheads (says the astronomer who likes to dive headfirst into esoteric details of policy). I do think there is a strong tendency for wonks to get so wrapped up in their ideas, they lose site of reality. The idea works in theory! To an extent, a President has to look at the bigger picture and rely on people for details and analysis. But … some basic knowledge of policy is kind of required. A President should understand the basics, if not the fine details, of economics, foreign policy and Constitutional law.

  16. Guarneri says:

    Hmmmm. Perhaps skilled at their day jobs, but faux experts at foreign policy, economics, management, investment…….

    Sounds like the OTB commentariat. But they have the ideology and calling people who disagree with them stupid and racist etc down pat.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Pat Dickerson: Scott Adams has a thing about “inDUHviduals”, but I don’t recall a pithy quote on it.

  18. humanoid.panda says:

    @CSK:

    With Carson, I think part of it is the arrogance of a surgeon, yes, and part of it is a book tour that ran away with him. And the reception he’s getting must be very gratifying to his ego. I’m not sure if he really wants to be president, but there may be a part of him that tells him that because he was a great neurosurgeon, he’ll be great at anything else he attempts. There are people who think that way. Wrongly,but they do.

    Another point of note: he is a religious fanatic, and as such, its not out of the question that he really does believe that applying “biblical principles” to all our problems that don’t involve neurosurgery is a simple and self-obvious thing to do, so being president is not hard.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, for God’s sake, you don’t need to be devoted to politics to know more than Ben Carson, you just have to be conscious.

    Don’t give me that “He was busy saving lives,” stuff, was he conscious? Were his senses all functioning? Had he been locked in a dungeon as a sex slave in between bouts of surgery?

    Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. The mani is clueless. The man is not in contact with reality. He’s ignorant and he’s fwcking nuts. Nuts! Crazy! Lalalalala no one home!

    And just what the hell business do you have running for POTUS when you know absolutely nothing about the job? Do people show up at Cason’s hospital demanding to be allowed to do surgery despite not knowing left from right?

    That this idiot, this naif, this clown, this meddling buffoon has the balls to run for President is an insult to this country, the voters and our history, and is proof in and of itself that he has no business running for anything, let alone the most important office on earth.

    Cut the crap, huh? He’s a clueless and mentally unbalanced clown. That’s what he is. Perfect for the GOP of course.

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    A President should understand the basics, if not the fine details, of economics, foreign policy and Constitutional law.

    What the Caines and Trumps and Carsons miss with their ‘OK, I don’t know anything about foreign policy, but I’ll get the best people’ is that those people have agendas and the President better have a damn good ear for when he’s being bullshitted. And that requires some factual baseline.

  21. cian says:

    The list of awards he’s received over the years—I’m relying on Wikipedia here—shows a breadth of involvement in the community:

    Yeah, I wouldn’t get too excited. In today’s fractured world, all kinds of people are getting all kinds of awards- Kim Davis, anyone? Or how about a little Donald Sterling. Best look to the awarding body’s agenda.

  22. humanoid.panda says:

    @Modulo Myself: 8 years ago, this was the domain of crazy people on the internet (and stiill is- witness Jack). Now, a flash in the pan presidential candidate is making this argument. In 8 years, Texas will integrate “Jews didn’t have guns so Holocaust” into its high school textbooks.

  23. stonetools says:

    I think the problem with Carson is that he is an ideologue. As such he has his system of beliefs and is uninterested in seeking out evidence that disconfirms those beliefs.
    Let’s start with his religious beliefs. If you are a young earth creationist, then you must believe that evolution is untrue, and you are therefore uninterested in looking at the evidence for evolution.
    In the same way Carson subscribes to a simplistic, fundamentalist view of conservatism. He believes, like many conservatives, that the federal budget like the household budget writ large: that tax cuts solve everything: that gun control does not and cannot work, etc. He believes these things on faith, and is uninterested in studying the actual evidence for those beliefs. If he actually studied policy, he would find all kinds of disconfirming evidence that would challenge those beliefs and who want’;s that? So he just goes ahead repeating what are faith statements to a receptive and believing audience who rewards him at the polls .

  24. humanoid.panda says:

    I pretty much agree with almost everything everyone said here, but I do have a quibble with the idea that Carson is ignorant, or hasn’t spent any time reading about current affairs, and so. The thing about him is not that he is ignorant or incurious- its that he gets all his information from sources deep, deep, inside the conservative bubble. The time other educated people spend reading the NYtimes, or maybe listening to NPR or reading Tom Friedman, Carson spent reading Cleon Skousen and David Barton, and other peddlers of pseudo-history. There is a whole industry out there meant to create a false vision of the world for conservative true believers, and Carson seems to be perfect, hermetically sealed, outcome.

  25. humanoid.panda says:

    The thing with Carson that unlike other candidates, he literally never had to engage with people who don’t share his beliefs- his main business being slicing people when they are unconscious. A Mike Huckabee spent years in politics, and had to hone his skills to appear normal to people who don’t understand the codes of the deep conservative world. Carson, outside of his narrow field, never had to do anything like that- and it shows.

  26. humanoid.panda says:

    @Guarneri:

    Hmmmm. Perhaps skilled at their day jobs, but faux experts at foreign policy, economics, management, investment…….

    Sounds like the OTB commentariat. But they have the ideology and calling people who disagree with them stupid and racist etc down pat.

    This might come as a shock, but not one of the commenters on this board is running for office, and every single one of them, with the exception of you and your ilk, has much better grasp of policy than the top two Republican presidential candidates.

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:

    Drew, you’re as politically dumb as Carson. And given your membership in a party that is currently melting down, I’m not surprised. Republican = Stupid. Sorry, but it’s true. You belong to the Stupid Party which explains your thought-free, and tediously unfunny snark. You’d have to actually, you know, know something in order to actually participate in the debate.

  28. James Joyner says:

    @Pat Dickerson: @gVOR08: I’m sure the idea isn’t original to Scott Adams. His 1996 book, The Dilbert Principle, discussed the topic at great length.

    Most of the themes in my comic strip Dilbert involve workplace situations. I routinely include bizarre and unwordly elements such as sadistic talking animals, troll-like accountants and employees turning into dishrags after the life-force has been drained from their bodies. And yet the comment I hear most often is “That’s just like my company.”

    No matter how absurd I try to make the comic strip I can’t stay ahead of what people are experiencing in their own workplaces. Some examples for the so-called real world include:

    – A major technology company simultaneously rolled out two new programs: (1) a random drug testing program, and (2) an “Individual Dignity Enhancement” program.

    – A company decided that instead of raises it will give bonuses if 5 of 7 company goals are met. At the end of the year the employees are informed that they have met only 4 of 7 goals, so no bonuses. One of the goals they missed was ’employee morale’.

    When I first started hearing these stories I was puzzled, but after careful analysis I have developed a sophisticated theory to explain the existence of this bizarre workplace behaviour: People are idiots. Including me. Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with the low SAT scores. The only difference is that we’re idiots about different things at different times. No matter how smart you are, you spend much of your day being an idiot. I proudly include myself in the idiot category. Idiocy in the modern age isn’t an all-encompassing 24-hour situation for most people. It’s a condition that everybody slips into many times a day. Life is just too complicated to be smart all the time…

    I can’t replace the battery in my pager… Yet somehow I managed to operate a motor vehicle to the repair shop and back. It is a wondrous human characteristic to be able tp slip into and out of idiocy many times a day without noticing the change or accidentally killing innocent bystanders in the process.

  29. DrDaveT says:

    James (and others) keep saying that Carson is ‘brilliant’. Where is the evidence for this?

    Yes, he was a top neurosurgeon. So? I went to a college famed for producing top physicians, and I can tell you that many of them were intellectually mediocre. Great doctors, highly skilled, innovative even — but not geniuses, by any stretch of the imagination.

    The practice of medicine is not an intellectual field in the way (say) physics or history or economics or mathematics is. Being a world-class physicist proves you’re a genius. Being a world-class surgeon proves you’re a great surgeon.

    (And if you look down that list of recognitions, they all seem to be either for being a great example or for being a great philanthropist — not for specific accomplishments of note.)

  30. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: Yeah…but there’s a yawning gulf between the quasi-idiocy of legitimate “I haven’t learned to do X yet” ignorance and the “willful disregard of any evidence contrary to a belief system” idiocy in which Carson et al. engage.

    Put me up against Carson on brain surgery and I’m an “idiot,” but I could still learn enough about it to understand the basics and even hold a decent conversation, if I wanted to. Carson and his adherents could do the same on political issues of national importance, but they choose not to. They revel in their ignorance.

  31. Modulo Myself says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    What’s especially scary is that it imagines the Holocaust as solely happening to urban German Jews. It’s not Poland, the Ukraine, or Serbia–no, it’s just the liberal urbane secular elitist Jews in the imaginations of Red America.

  32. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Don’t give me that “He was busy saving lives,” stuff, was he conscious? Were his senses all functioning? Had he been locked in a dungeon as a sex slave in between bouts of surgery?

    He was, and he paid quite a bit of money for that treatment!

  33. stonetools says:

    Ben Carson on gun control:

    As is its wont, the Anti-Defamation League told Carson to get a grip and stop making dumb and offensive Nazi analogies. And Carson wasn’t having any of it:

    “That’s total foolishness,” Carson told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. “I’d be happy to discuss that in depth with anybody but it is well known that in many places where tyranny has taken over they first disarm the people. There’s a reason they disarm the people. They don’t just do it arbitrarily.”
    Thinking you know more about the Holocaust than the ADL is an indication either of arrogance or of attachment to some crackpot theory that is “obviously” true. Either way, it’s a bad sign.

    Again, what’s amazing here is his dismissive attitude toward folks who are, more or less, “experts” on the topic of the Holocaust. “Facts, experts? For me to poop on! I have my theories, don’t confuse me with your facts!”
    In this way, he mirrors a lot of conservatives confronted with evidence that their theories are wrong, like the NRA, which has done so much to promulgate the Nazi gun control theory.

  34. Hal_10000 says:

    @gVOR08:

    Agreed. There’s also the danger that your staff will tell you want to hear in order to curry favor. A good President avoids this. D’Souza, before he went off the deep end, wrote an interesting biography of Reagan where he described cabinet meetings in which Reagan would not let his opinion be known so he could listen to his cabinet argue about it. He would ask pointed questions but wouldn’t tip his hand. In Surowiecki’s book, he also talks about the dangers of groupthink settling in once the person in charge makes it known what answer they want (e.g., the Columbia disaster). A critical part of being a good President … hell, being good anything … is being open to being talked out of a bad decision.

    Anyone think Carson, Trump or Palin would be talked out of a bad decision?

  35. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve been in the operating room with a fair number of surgeons and it is very much a “one king in the castle” environment (I don’t think that’s a bad thing). And neurosurgeons are at the top of the food chain. They can bring literally millions of dollars a year of pay for service revenue to the hospitals they operate at. All this is a roundabout way of saying I wouldn’t expect him to have gotten much negative feedback no matter what nonsense he spouted.

  36. MarkedMan says:

    It’s interesting that several commenters have contrasted him to Reagan. In contrast, I feel that Reagan was the start of this anti-intellectual cultural revolution in the Republican party. Since his first run for the Presidency Reagan sold the attitude that “Problems aren’t complicated. Those who tell you otherwise are fools and time wasters.” That has evolved to the present Republican belief that if a problem is inconvenient it can be dismissed as non-existent and those who want to focus on it are liars.

    Reagan, led the Republican party into this mess. He may not have been as bad as the current crop, but he definitely applied all his charming acting talent to getting us there.

  37. al-Ameda says:

    @Guarneri:

    Sounds like the OTB commentariat. But they have the ideology and calling people who disagree with them stupid and racist etc down pat.

    Oh please.
    So, who has called you “stupid and racist”?
    Go ahead, name names.

  38. Modulo Myself says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Considering how much Reagan invented, from facts about his own life to stories about young bucks, it’s very bizarre that you are pointing to Reagan as some sort of high point of knowing what the hell was going on.

  39. Moderate Mom says:

    @michael reynolds: Tell us how your really feel. 🙂

  40. KM says:

    @DrDaveT :

    James (and others) keep saying that Carson is ‘brilliant’. Where is the evidence for this?

    Yes, he was a top neurosurgeon. So? I went to a college famed for producing top physicians, and I can tell you that many of them were intellectually mediocre. Great doctors, highly skilled, innovative even — but not geniuses, by any stretch of the imagination.

    I suppose it’s in how you define “brilliant” and “genius”. According to the theory of multiple intelligence, Carson actually scores high on quiet a few of them like Bodily–kinesthetic. His Logical–mathematical and fluid intelligence is what’s lacking as evidenced by his latest antics.

    However, if you looking for the traditional measure, IQ score, he excels on that as well. Genius level IQ is around 140+ . Can’t seem to find the source to cite but I believe he clocked in around 148. Can someone else confirm?

  41. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Michael, you answered your own question. The fact that Carson knows nothing about being POTUS is, for his supporters, a feature, not a bug.

  42. Steve V says:

    @James Joyner: He’s been Sean Hannity’s darling for years now. He’s had a LOT of time to learn this stuff.

  43. al-Ameda says:

    Who else but a brilliant and accomplished man like Ben Carson
    would come up with analogies that equate modern liberalism with
    Nazi Germany, and ACA with slavery?

    Also, Ben Carson has the superior powers of deduction and reasoning
    to deduce that being gay is a choice because many men enter prison
    straight and come out gay.

    Brilliant? Absolutely.

    My Republican amigos, enjoy these precious moments.

  44. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: Why do you say that those of us that post here are faux experts?

  45. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: huh, when I was tested as a kid (we were the guinea pig class–test here, test there, test everywhere) I hit somewhere in that range.

    Funny, I don’t feel smart!

    (My cranky view is that IQ tests measure, duh, the ability to do IQ tests. AND NOTHING ELSE. I’ve run into enough idiots who proudly boast their membership in Mensa to know that whatever IQ tests measure, it ain’t intelligence.)

  46. Ron Beasley says:

    @Mikey: The dumbest engineer I ever worked with had a PhD from MIT.My company fired him 6 months after he was hired.

  47. grumpy realist says:

    @Ron Beasley: The “assume a spherical cow” sort?

    There’s mathematical calculative/logic ability, and then there’s horse sense. I’d rather have the latter than the former.

  48. KM says:

    @grumpy realist :

    (My cranky view is that IQ tests measure, duh, the ability to do IQ tests. AND NOTHING ELSE. I’ve run into enough idiots who proudly boast their membership in Mensa to know that whatever IQ tests measure, it ain’t intelligence.)

    What you are referring to is called crystallized intelligence (Gc) – the ability to memorize and use knowledge and skills. Otherwise known as book learnin’. You are absolute correct in that most tests don’t measure your reasoning abilities so much as your abilities to memorize state capitals. Knowledge is not wisdom or cunning or cleverness – there’s a reason why we have so many different words to describe cognitive abilities. Your IQ also goes down as you get older by necessity since one of the factors is your age at the time of the test. Smart kids can test high into the Gifted/Genius level but drift down and stabilizes in above average for the rest of their lives – something to point out to every braggy parent and their special snowflake!

    As a surgeon, Carson has great crystallized intelligence in that he had to learn the minutia of medicine and it’s techniques. What he lacks is fluid intelligence (Gf) – what you called horse sense. The ability to reason out, discover patterns, abstract thinking, problem solve. Surgeons aren’t diagnosticians – they fix a problem when it’s already been established what the problem is. Critical thinking is not his forte and it shows.

    It’s weird – Trump shows high Gf and low Gc (people smart and book dumb) while Carson is the complete opposite. Put them together and they might have a functioning brain! 🙂

  49. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: My problem is as I got older I started seeing all sorts of different ways of answering the question, depending on the interpretation. Go live in Japan for a while and run your nose over and over again into assumptions you’re making and you don’t even realize you’re making and you get awfully cautious and really careful.

    It was great for my risk analysis, but hell on my test-taking.

  50. MBunge says:

    Does anyone think that Carson is really THAT much more ignorant than the millions and millions of Americans who are too damn lazy to vote in off-year elections? I mean, those people fundamentally don’t understand our system of government.

    Mike

  51. Davebo says:

    An Carson is more stupid than which other GOP primary candidate?

    It’s your clown car James. Embrace it.

  52. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: Really? You seem to be implying that no one in the history of the OTB left has ever called an opponent stupid or racist. Don’t just imply it, then: step up and say that outright, or say that they have.

  53. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: You treat people like dirt every once in a while, maybe they don’t notice. You do it all the time, they notice, even if they don’t say anything about it. Common sense should tell you, though, don’t treat people like dirt all the time then say that you don’t, and expect them to back you up on it.

  54. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    @al-Ameda: Really? You seem to be implying that no one in the history of the OTB left has ever called an opponent stupid or racist. Don’t just imply it, then: step up and say that outright, or say that they have.

    There you go again. Did I imply that no one in the history of the OTB left has ever called an opponent stupid or racist? Nope. Conservatives routinely claim that their criticism of Obama results in Conservatives being called racists. I notice that such criticism is branded racist when it is actually racist – what’s wrong with that?

    Conservatives love to be considered victims.

  55. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    You treat people like dirt every once in a while, maybe they don’t notice. You do it all the time, they notice, even if they don’t say anything about it. Common sense should tell you, though, don’t treat people like dirt all the time then say that you don’t, and expect them to back you up on it.

    Now you’re making things up.
    Seriously, please post an example of where I treated someone like dirt. I mean it.

  56. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda:

    @Guarneri:

    Sounds like the OTB commentariat. But they have the ideology and calling people who disagree with them stupid and racist etc down pat.

    Oh please.
    So, who has called you “stupid and racist”?
    Go ahead, name names.

    What did you mean by that?

  57. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    What did you mean by that?

    Again, to reiterate:

    Oh please.
    So, who has called you “stupid and racist”?
    Go ahead, name names.

    My words seem to suggest that I asked ‘Guarneri’ to identify those OTB’ers who have called him stupid and racist. And, in fact, that’s exactly what I asked.

    Also, were you able to come up with any examples of how I treated other OTB’ers like dirt?

  58. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: Well, Guarneri didn’t say that he’d been called racist and stupid; he said that people who disagree with OTB’ers have been called racist and stupid. But clearly you wanted the list of people who’ve called Guarneri racist and stupid for something, or you wouldn’t have asked for it. Is it so crazy to assume that you asked for the list because you thought no one had called him racist and stupid? Just like you’re telling me to post an example of your nastiness. Are you asking idly, or are you challenging me because you think you’ve never treated anyone badly?

    Now, I don’t know Guarneri, but I’ve seen people being called racist and stupid on this site for disagreeing wtih the OTB zeitgeist. Is that response sufficient for you?

  59. Lenoxus says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

    In general, there’s probably a fair bit of racism against Carson in one form or another — for example, if anyone is calling “Uncle Tom” or something, that might be racism.

    But if you’re curious why a Republican presidential candidate is being held to extremely low standards, you don’t need to read past “Republican presidential candidate”. For God’s sake, the avatar of that crowd is Belligerent Combover Guy.

  60. Ron Beasley says:

    @KM: Someone put it very well the other day in another comment thread: Surgeons are not scientists but plumbers and carpenters.

  61. Monala says:

    @SenyorDave: I have read a few comments around the web wondering whether he is experiencing some sort of dementia. People who heard him speak 10 or 20 years in the past say that once upon a time, he didn’t spout crazy things and he didn’t have the weird, soporific affect.

  62. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Drew said:

    Sounds like the OTB commentariat. But they have the ideology and calling people who disagree with them stupid and racist etc down pat.

    That indicates the he thinks the OTB commentariat writ large calls those who disagree with them stupid and racist. He and you and several others regularly disagree with a majority of the commenters here. That would seem to indicate that, if he is right, that it would be easy to find many of us calling you and him and Hal and other non trolls that disagree with the bulk of the commentariat stupid and racist. He cannot or will not do so, I’m relatively certain you won’t either. Still you back peddle his statement a bit and then defend it, why? Is it just your proclivity for tone policing one side of the aisle or is there more to it?

  63. Tillman says:

    @Pinky:

    I’ve seen people being called racist and stupid on this site for disagreeing wtih the OTB zeitgeist

    What you’ve seen (as I’ve seen it as well) is not individuals called racist and stupid (aside from a few trolls I think I recall), but a class of people called that. What you’ve also seen is our hosts repeatedly accused of supporting this class of people, and the implication made thereof. It’s important to note it’s a class of people rather than a group of individuals (people) called that because liberals around here get twisted in a knot if they’re accused of being uncivil.

    @Grewgills:

    He and you and several others regularly disagree with a majority of the commenters here. That would seem to indicate that, if he is right, that it would be easy [emphasis mine] to find many of us calling you and him and Hal and other non trolls that disagree with the bulk of the commentariat stupid and racist. He cannot or will not do so, I’m relatively certain you won’t either.

    Y’know, a shitty search function or lack of knowledge on how to best use Google to find what you want make great argumentative bulwarks. I don’t bother doing it because it takes time I’d rather spend either commenting or being somewhere else on the Internet entirely. Given the age of some of our commenters, it would be considered a waste of time to back-check all of these claims made on a near-daily basis. It’s part of the reason I don’t really believe in the Internet’s power to inform, as the avalanche of trivial BS that gets put out easily outweighs the useful and enlightening information out there.

    My point is I don’t find it logically compelling that people don’t bother backing up their claims about the OTB commentariat because it’s not something the average commenter would invest time in, and because I don’t make “prove it” statements often as no one bothers proving anything around here. The best we get is links the content or authorship of are accused of bias one way or the other. Hell, I’m not even getting into everyone’s differing interpretations on what comments prove what to begin with.

  64. Grewgills says:

    @Tillman:
    The search function on OTB or even just using Google has taken me quickly and easily to comments that I wanted to reference. If someone claims that something is prevalent across the commentariat, then it should be easy to find. If instead that person was talking out his a$$, calling them on it is entirely reasonable.
    There are a few commenters on here that too easily go to racist or stupid as the reason for some action or another, but it is far from being typical of the OTB commentariat and it is BS to claim that it is so, particularly when no evidence will ever be offered and the same BS claim will just be repeated in another thread.

  65. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: OK, did you just admit that people on this site call their opponents racist and stupid? That the evidence is out there, even though it’s (by your estimation) fairly uncommon?

  66. Pinky says:

    It’s not even necessarily wrong to call people racist or stupid, if that’s what they’re being. (I don’t think I’ve called anyone but Clavin stupid on this site.) We’ve had threads about racism; it was bound to come up. I don’t understand why anyone would deny what Guarneri said, though. Ballpark guess, how many times has someone on this site said that someone else was afraid of a brown President?

  67. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Drew was making a claim that this was a regular tactic by the commentariat writ large. He didn’t make the relatively narrow that complaint that a few commenters go to quickly to racism or stupidity as a reason for certain actions. He made a broad accusation. It would be akin to me saying

    Sounds like the conservatives on OTB. But they have the ideology and calling people who disagree with them baby killers, traitors etc down pat.

    Do you or other (non troll) conservatives on OTB regularly do this? I don’t think so. There are, however, some conservatives on this site that do so. Would that make me saying this reasonable, or would you say that I was being unfair?

  68. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    Ballpark guess, how many times has someone on this site said that someone else was afraid of a brown President?

    If we take out instances of roughly three regular commenters and it would be a rather small number. Three or four commenters do not the OTB commentariat make.

  69. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: Here we get into the confirmation bias thing. What strikes you as a rarity except for a few people strikes me as a constant background hum punctuated by shrill screams. So, care to do a count over the next week? How many accusations of treason or baby-killing versus how many accusations of racism? That sounds like a horrible way to spend a week, but the claim that you’re making of rarity sounds so far off the mark to me that maybe we need to sort it out with data.

  70. Pinky says:

    @Tillman:

    not individuals called racist and stupid (aside from a few trolls I think I recall), but a class of people called that

    I don’t think that really applies where the rubber meets the road, for two reasons. One, Guarneri never said that the OTB crowd accuses only commenters of racism and stupidity – he said “people who disagree with them”. Two, the broad categories that are accused of racism clearly include some of the commenters. If I said that fans of the Coen brothers were jerks, that’d be a broad category, but you could rightly claim that it was directed at you.

  71. Tillman says:

    @Grewgills:

    If someone claims that something is prevalent across the commentariat, then it should be easy to find [emphasis mine]. If instead that person was talking out his a$$, calling them on it is entirely reasonable.

    Except memories are faulty and our search algorithms don’t make it easy to find fuzzy recollections. If one is left with the impression of something based on multiple comments, each using a different phrasing but implying the same meaning or similar, spread out over a period of time rather than being concentrated in a single thread, finding examples is hellishly difficult and time-consuming. This makes it less likely for anyone to bother searching to begin with, ultimately lending undue credence to the idea that if someone can’t back up their memory then it is entirely false. (or a weak version of an “argument from ignorance” fallacy)

    This doesn’t include reckoning with presumptions about how prevalent a string of generalizations has to be to justify someone calling it out, which varies widely by person. Just the differing standards of what would constitute evidence of a generalization at play make the whole exercise a waste of most people’s time to attempt the research as groupthink “socially-motivated reasoning” reduces us to the strictest possible scrutiny of any claim. Not to mention honestly proving a generalization would require so many links as to end up in the moderation queue by default. It’s not like anyone here has been quelled by one instance of something proving them wrong.

  72. Tillman says:

    @Pinky:

    One, Guarneri never said that the OTB crowd accuses only commenters of racism and stupidity – he said “people who disagree with them”.

    This is not a class of people…how? If we’re again parsing to the bone, he wasn’t making much of an argumentative statement so much as a snide remark. Further, his own statement is self-defeating. He’s shown multiple times he regards anyone who disagrees with him as moronic. As a member of the OTB crowd (he comments here somewhat regularly), his own generalization hits him back.

    Two, the broad categories that are accused of racism clearly include some of the commenters. If I said that fans of the Coen brothers were jerks, that’d be a broad category, but you could rightly claim that it was directed at you.

    Except I wouldn’t, I’d just say you have poor taste. 🙂 It’d be a debate more than a wrestling match.

    Every time someone here claims all Southerners are racist (or some variation of “we should’ve let the South secede”) and all Christians are deluded fools, I cringe a bit because those generalizations hit me. However, the facts are (a) there are plenty of examples of racist Southerners and idiot Christians to generalize from (I’ve met plenty), and (b) being a unique snowflake doesn’t refute the generalization. It’s the “not all” argument, and it doesn’t work. A generalization is not an absolute. Just because someone insults your brand doesn’t mean they’ve insulted you, so I don’t think I can rightfully claim injury every time (and it happens somewhat cyclically) someone cracks their fingers and types something addressing a part of my identity that I don’t agree with. To believe I do have such claim would be in my mind to live a rather selfish, paranoid existence taking offense at anything even remotely related to me being questioned. That’s not behavior I associate with rational people.

    Now sometimes someone writes something egregious enough to set you off, but accusing them of unduly generalizing isn’t the proper tact unless you can prove them wrong.

  73. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    There is probably some confirmation bias at play on both sides here and perhaps a bit of tribalism. I do try to call out ‘my side’ when I see something egregious, but I’m probably quicker to call you out than some here on the left. Still, I think that the majority of the left leaning commentariat aren’t quick to label disagreement as racist or stupid. There are a few commenters that are IMO too quick to label opposition racist, but they are far from a majority. Then again, once your hackles are up it can be easy to see any agreement with their larger points as piling on to those bits as well.
    As Tillman mentioned Drew’s MO is pretty much the drive by snark and the thrust of it always seems to be that anyone who disagrees with him is an idiot, so his criticism of the commentariat here is at best just hypocritical. I’m not sure why you are defending him outside of tribal affiliation.

  74. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    Are you asking idly, or are you challenging me because you think you’ve never treated anyone badly?

    YOU are the one who said that I have treated people here like dirt, so naturally I asked (not idly) for examples of that, because, no, I do not treat people here at OTB like dirt.

  75. dazedandconfused says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Ben Carson has apparently not taken advantage of his retirement to expand his view of the world.

    True. I would opine that this is also a flaw in pure STEM education. Takes much, much more than that to lead people. Carson is something like the Pauls in this regard. Being “highly educated” gave them the surety in their opinions of narcissists but they don’t know how to think in this “league”. Good minds gone to waste.

    They provide an example that a great deal is missed by ignoring “liberal arts”. Perhaps key is the teaching of non-binary thinking. While too much of that has rendered people useless Steve Jobs shows it isn’t necessarily fatal. Reed College is as liberal artsy as it gets.

  76. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: I’ve confused you and anjin-san before. If I’m confusing you with someone else, I’m sorry.

  77. grumpy realist says:

    @Grewgills: Drive-by snark and calling anyone who disagrees with him an idiot?

    We’ve tracked him down! Drew is Donald Trump!

    (Thinks he knows everything better than anyone else? CHECK.)
    (Thinks he’s a business genius? CHECK.)
    (If anyone disagrees with him calls said person an idiot? CHECK)
    (Has bad combover? Well….)

  78. al-Ameda says:

    @Tillman:

    Every time someone here claims all Southerners are racist (or some variation of “we should’ve let the South secede”)

    Well, I must own up to this one (or some variation of “we should’ve let the South secede”) it’s mine. I do not believe that I’ve used it in the context of ‘all Southerners are racist,’ because that is absurd, I use it in the context of general conservatism, and hostility to the federal government. Be that as it may, if you did see it as personal, I apologize, never my intention

  79. grumpy realist says:

    @dazedandconfused: In my experience, a lot of people who majored in STEM also have something they’re very interested in on the liberal artsy side. Either language or music or history or….

    Actually, if I were to think of what would be a good background for a politician, double-majoring in physics/chemistry and history would be A Good Thing. The physics/chemistry to whack you over the head with this thing called reality, and history to do the same with showing how great plans often lead to very bloody battlefields.

    The best historians I ever read are the most cynical about the perfectibility of humanity, bar none.

  80. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    In my experience, a lot of people who majored in STEM also have something they’re very interested in on the liberal artsy side.

    Many? Perhaps. Most? No, I don’t think so.

    I had a weird undergrad education — double major in Philosophy and Applied Math. My math degree is something like “Bachelor of Arts in Engineering”, and all praise to alma mater for permitting such a silly degree. My colleagues who got the normal Bachelor of Science degree — real engineers — had zero time for electives or liberal arts nonsense. Too many required courses in statics and dynamics and differential equations.

    Now, in grad school, among the elite students it was about a 50/50 mix of “no interest in anything but the pure specialty” and those who also happened to be accomplished amateur musicians, or chess-players, or linguists, or what have you. But among the undergrads, those were the rare special snowflakes.

    In general, I think STEM education stamps out breadth. It almost has to; the volume of material you have to learn just to become a novice in pure or applied math or engineering is almost overwhelming. It doesn’t leave any time for anything else.

  81. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The physics/chemistry to whack you over the head with this thing called reality, and history to do the same with showing how great plans often lead to very bloody battlefields.

    Bit of trivia – before she went into politics in E. Germany, Angela Merkel was a quantum chemist. I have no idea whether she studied history.

  82. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: You still haven’t explained why you wanted a list of the people who’ve insulted Guarneri. Would you tell us honestly if you said that because you thought it’d never happened? Would you at least admit that, by asking about Guarneri specifically, you avoided the matter of other people being insulted on this site?

    @Grewgills: I have no idea who Drew is. I’m defending the idea that calling people stupid and racist is a common occurrence on this site. If you want to make the claim that both sides do it equally, then let’s count them sometime. If you don’t want to, then I’ll have to assume that you’re ceding the point. Note, again, I don’t want to sit around counting insults. But the idea that your side is the victim on this site strikes me as so patently absurd that I’m willing to go through the exercise.

  83. grumpy realist says:

    @DrDaveT: Ah, it must be an MIT thing. I did Physics/Japanese, my roommate did Materials Science/History, quite a few of my classmates did physics/music….one of the most brilliant CS people I hung around with was devoted to Bach and Handel and was notorious for improvising 4-part fugues on the organ.

    We were an odd bunch.

  84. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Guarneri = Drew
    I have made no claim about ‘my side’ being the victim. I think Drew’s whinging about a tactic he uses regularly, indeed almost exclusively, in his commenting is at best hypocritical. I think that you are defending him either out of tribal affiliation (you do like tone policing the left), or because you feel like you are regularly the victim of those particular insults.
    Again, I think that those insults come almost exclusively from 3-4 commenters on the left. You apparently think most of us do it and do it regularly enough that it is the background noise of OTB. If you really want to go through with some sort of counting exercise to see which of us is correct, the way to do it would be to tally up those insults over the course of a week (or whatever time period) for those 3-4 commenters and the other left leaning commenters. That would actually test the claim I made.
    As far as total number of insults lobbed by either side it would depend on the week and who shows up on ‘your side’. There are typically a few more left leaning commenters and they tend to also comment more often. If you want to do a ‘both sides do it’ comparison that would have to be taken into account. It doesn’t seem like a valuable use of time, but I’m usually up for a bet, even a stupid one.

  85. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Interested in something artsy or liberal artsy doesn’t necessarily mean an additional major or being accomplished enough in that artsy thing to work. In my experience teaching in high school, community college, and university it was typical for the math and science instructors to have interests in various liberal arts areas. It was atypical for the more liberal arts instructors to have much of an interest in math or science and it was disturbingly common for them to be in the ‘”I’m just not good at math” bunch.