Writing for GQ, Jason Zengerle accompanies Ben Carson on a trip to Israel and finds that Carson's foreign policy education is proceeding a tad slowly:
Carson was in the first-class lounge at the Newark airport, waiting for a flight to Tel Aviv. He'd never been to Israel before, but a trip to the Holy Land has become, in recent years, a prerequisite for presidential aspirants.... Now, as Carson sat across from the young Israeli woman who'd be his guide, he was getting a head start on what he called his own "fact-finding mission." The more basic the facts, the better.
The woman answered Carson's question about political parties, telling him that there were Labor and Likud and a host of other factions in the Knesset. "And what is the role of the Knesset?" he interjected. This prompted a tutorial on Israel's legislature. Carson is a tall, dignified-looking man with a placid, almost sleepy face. As he tried to concentrate on his Hebrew Schoolhouse Rock primer, he seemed even more fatigued. "It sounds complex," he finally said. "Why don't they just adopt the system we have?"
This happened, we're told, "about a month before the president's  State of the Union speech" -- which took place on January 20. That means Carson had this conversation more than a year after his pals started raising large amounts of money for his presidential run, and three or four months after Carson's first visit to Iowa. Carson has been seriously running for president for a while -- and he's just now getting around to nailing basic facts like these? (Zengerle's article bears an appropriate title: "What If Sarah Palin Were a Brain Surgeon?")
I blame Carson for not doing his homework, just as I've always blamed Palin for not doing hers -- but, really, belief in the potential political greatness of holy innocents is disturbingly common among Republicans. I guess it dates back to Reagan, but he seems like a scholar of American governance compared to right-wing wannabes such as Carson, Palin, Herman Cain, and Donald Trump. In Carson's case, it was the mainstream conservative media that concluded he was presidential material after his anti-Obama National Prayer Breakfast speech:
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Hours after the speech, Rush Limbaugh was playing excerpts on his show and telling listeners, "I love this guy!" That week The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial titled "Ben Carson for President." ... "Would you ever run for president, sir?" Sean Hannity asked Carson during what would become one of his countless Fox News interviews. "I'd vote for you in a heartbeat."
On The Dem/lefty side, I could see an utter neophyte inspiring " ______ for President" gush after a provocative public statement or two, but I can't imagine that it would be sustained, particularly by well-established media figures or huge numbers of donors. Yes, over the Bush years there might have been occasional cries of "Dixie Chicks for President" or "Cindy Sheehan for President," but these were isolated outbursts. Roseanne Barr did run for president in 2012 with Sheehan as her running mate, but they got only 0.05% of the popular vote. Carson, by contrast, is at 10.6% in national polls of Republicans. And his PAC, as Zengerle notes, "has raised more than $13 million from over 150,000 donors." (That's more than twice as many people as voted for Barr, and the Iowa caucuses are still ten months away.)
But, of course, Republicans don't believe in expert knowledge and don't believe in government. So why not hand the nuclear launch codes to someone who's made little effort to learn the basic facts about governing?
UPDATE: M. Bouffant has more.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog