The one good thing about flying under the radar is that nobody pays attention to you. The worst thing, however, is when you’re somewhere over the radar, and suddenly everyone is paying attention — close attention — to everything you say or do or ever said or did.
So it is with Ben Carson, he of the “Gifted Hands,” but many are concluding that his mouth and what comes out of it may not be such a gift to his presidential aspirations. He’s not liking it one bit that many, particularly those Satans in the media, are closely examining his every utterance, past and present, spoken and written. To put it gently, many of his statements are controversial. To put it less gently, many feel that they are insane rants. To be blunt, a number of his claims about his past have been challenged factually, or at least are regarded as embellishments.
Carson may be new to the political game, but he learned in a big hurry that when you’re cornered by serious and valid questions, the best way to wriggle out is to attack the questioner. Suddenly, his opponents and journalists, who are supposed to be skeptical of anything and certainly everyone, are taking a hard look at the accuracy of his claims about his past, to say nothing about some of his outlandish statements about life and politics. Some of both seem to be far out there. So, what does he do when questioned about whether he’s a liar or a nutcase? He angrily accuses the questioners, mainly the reporters who cover him, of being “liars” themselves and lackeys for his opponents.
Meanwhile, his true believers continue to, uh, believe in him; the facts be damned. He knows that (he’s more sophisticated than he pretends) — just like Donald Trump knows that he can neutralize any challenges to his grandiose claims simply by belittling (or worse) those who would dare raise any doubts. Trump has an amazing knack for treating reality as if it’s fantasy, of running a campaign that resembles “Saturday Night Live.” Oh, did I say “Saturday Night Live”? His appearance looked little different than a campaign event. Except that is was more boring.
Carly Fiorina, on the other hand, doesn’t even try to display much humor, but like The Donald and The Ben, she is another one who sticks by her stories, no matter the facts. Her description of the anti-abortion Planned Parenthood video bears no resemblance to the truth, but she holds to her version no matter what. It’s the same with her record in business. While nearly everyone in high-tech describes her tenure heading Hewlett-Packard as an unmitigated disaster, she continues to blithely label it a resounding success. And her fervent supporters get even more intense each time someone forces a confrontation with reality. Of course, what helps The Carly is tasteless carping about such trivialities as her looks. The Trumpster got it started, but he’s not the only moronic player in this game of sexist politics showbiz.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has had her own trouble with trust, or the lack thereof. The difference with her is that no matter how she explains her email practices, no matter how plausible her spin, she generates credibility problems for herself. In the case of Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina, their devotees are ever ready to blame the scumbags in the media for daring to question their hero (or she-ro) who has captured their imaginations by playing on their fears, prejudices and, frankly, ignorance.
So when Ben Carson abandons his serenity act and flashes some anger at those who dare to confront him, he gets away with it. He and the rest want a free ride, and they’ll sweep aside anyone who dares question them. It’s working. So far.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.