To echo the current ad campaign by Geico: Politicians lie. It's what they do.
Like when Donald Trump says he's going to make Mexico pay for a border wall — ain't never gonna happen. Hillary Clinton knew she was lying when she claimed that NSA contractor Edward Snowden was protected by federal whistleblower laws (those are only for federal employees).
Probably because he's ahead in the polls, attention is currently focused on Ben Carson's distant relationship with the truth, most interestingly his story of getting offered a scholarship to West Point. It's a ridiculous tale given the fact that many young Americans try to get into the military academies (I applied to Annapolis), so a lot of people know the real deal. If you gain acceptance after a grueling application process — I remember a battery of physicals that took all day and having to obtain a sponsorship from a member of Congress — tuition, room and board is free. But you're committed to serving as a junior officer for six years after graduation.
By far the weirdest of Carson's alleged fibs — the story itself and the media's reaction to it — is the soft-spoken-to-the-point-of-being-stoned physician's description of himself in his 1990 autobiography as a violent young man with a "pathological temper."
I haven't read "Gifted Hands," and likely never will, but CNN has: "The violent episodes he has detailed in his book, in public statements and in interviews, include punching a classmate in the face with his hand wrapped around a lock, leaving a bloody three-inch gash in the boy's forehead; attempting to attack his own mother with a hammer following an argument over clothes; hurling a large rock at a boy, which broke the youth's glasses and smashed his nose; and, finally, thrusting a knife at the belly of his friend with such force that the blade snapped when it luckily struck a belt buckle covered by the boy's clothes."
"I was trying to kill somebody," Carson has said about his inept act of attempted murder in ninth grade, at age 14.
"CNN was unable to independently confirm any of the incidents," Scott Glover and Maeve Reston reported. The network tracked down several of Carson's friends and former classmates. None remembered Carson as out of control or violent.
Stipulated: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Minor changes in details — "camping knife" or "pocketknife," is there a difference? — don't change the basic facts of the story. Just because CNN can't corroborate Carson's stabbing attempt doesn't mean it didn't happen. Maybe they didn't talk to the right friends or classmates. Carson may well have told the truth about this. That's not the point.
The point is two-fold:
First — whether Carson told the truth or lied — why is he telling this story now, while running for president? (Among other times, he talked about it at a campaign appearance in September.) A history as a deranged juvenile delinquent isn't something to brag about when you're asking voters to give you nuclear launch codes.
I understand the self-confessional bit in his bio. Memoirs that hide the author's flaws suck. "Gifted Hands" came out 25 years ago, long before Carson thought about politics. But he's still talking about trying to stab a dude for, by his own account, no good reason.
Yeah, it's a redemption narrative. After that, he found God (in a bathroom!) and got calm. Very calm.
I say it's creepy.
Unlike my September 2001 opposition to invading Afghanistan, I don't think I'm alone in feeling that I don't want someone with a predilection for psychotic outbursts running the country.
That's assuming he's telling the truth about it. Really, truly, I hope he's lying.
Which is my second point: Carson's media critics are in the strange position of accusing him of not being an attempted murderer. Can it be that violence has become so normalized in American society that viciousness is now a requirement for high office?
Reporter: "Is it true, Dr. Carson, that you didn't try to kill someone for fun?"
Dr. Carson: "Absolutely not. I swear swear swear that I did try to kill the guy, and that it would have been fun, and God damn that belt buckle!"
The way this is going, Carson will soon have to produce the original long-form version of his victims' death certificates in order to continue as a viable presidential candidate.
Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book "Snowden," the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.
Photo by: Gage Skidmore