Election 2016

Ben Carson Lives in a Different America (One That Includes Vermonticut)

Leading the Republican presidential field, the good doctor flubs basic geography.

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Just yesterday, Matt Welch pointed out what everyone kind of already knew but was too polite to discuss: Ben Carson, the current leader in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, doesn't know anything about foreign policy.

That wasn't Matt's opinion, by the way. That was what one of Carson's own foreign-policy advisors told The New York Times:

"Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East," Duane R. Clarridge, a top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security, said in an interview. He also said Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so "we can make him smart."

To be fair, the Carson campaign said Clarridge, who was pardoned for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan years, was basically senile (he is "coming to the end of a long career of serving our country") and is only an informal counselor to the retired pediatric neurosurgeon. Whose own comments on foreign policy are still pretty odd.

But that was yesterday. More recently, the Carson Campaign has shown its ability to look bad extends to domestic concerns too. Here's a tweet the campaign sent out voicing solidarity with governors refusing to accept Syrian refugees:

@realbencarson

Graduates of fifth-grade geography—do they even teach geography any more?—will note that New England looks a little odd in the Carson Campaign's drawing, featuring a state that appears to be Vermonticut. Whether Canada regards this map as an act of aggression remains to be seen, but there's at least one more act of territorial flimflammery hidden in the picture too. (Carson's campaign has since fixed the graphic on its Facebook page.)

This isn't the sort of mistake that makes or breaks a campaign. But even (or especially) as Carson continues to climb in the polls, there's a strong sense not simply that he is a novice in the political arena but  that he really doesn't know what he's talking about. That feeling extends even to health care, where you'd expect Carson's depth to be most evident. As Peter Suderman and other have noted, Carson's understanding of health care doesn't seem to be much better than his grasp of foreign policy or the country's northeastern border. Given that Carson's whole campaign is built around his success as a medical doctor, that's far more troubling than his campaign's graphic skills.

Hat Tip: Justin Monticello