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Ben Carson once more opens his mouth and inserts his foot

HUD Secretary Ben Carson has a genius for trying to say something reasonable and having it come out as something outrageous.

He repeatedly shot himself in the foot during his campaign for the presidential nomination last year.  He wrote a book relating a number of unverifiable stories, including an abortive appointment to West Point and eyebrow-raising tales from the supposedly violence-filled early life of the soft-spoken neurosurgeon. and how coming to faith in Christ changed him for the better. But he did so in such a way as to leave the impression that he regarded himself as psychologically warped in some fundamental and permanent way.

In one of the most ironic statements in all of American political history, Donald Trump responded in his typically inarticulate fashion, "He wrote a book and in the book, he said terrible things about himself. He said that he's pathological (sic) and he's got basically pathological disease (sic). I don't want a person that's got pathological disease (sic)."

Except, it seems, in his cabinet. And this from a man whose own personality is not exactly free from, shall we say, quirks which some might perhaps see as less than optimally healthy himself, such as a somewhat adversarial relationship with the truth.

He said that he would not be comfortable with a Muslim president, despite the Constitution's prohibition of a religious test for public office.

He mispronounced "Hamas."

He invited a grade-school class in Cedar Rapids to identify- and thus to shame- the worst student in the class. They obliged.

He seemed to blame a massacre on a junior college campus by a deranged gunman on the victims.

He actually used the words "legitimate rape" to pass his lips while repeating- despite the fact that he, as a physician, should surely know better- the bizarre falsehood common on the Far Right that somehow the body of a rape victim protects her from becoming pregnant. Certain other aspects of that statement were spun by the liberal media to seem far more outrageous than they actually were. But even so, Carson's words about rape should have disqualified him even more from the job he holds now than from the presidency.

Some of his alleged gaffes- such as his daring to criticize aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement, a sacred cow on the Left,  even while expressing support for its premise- said more about media coverage of Dr. Carson than they did about the good doctor himself. But his talent for discrediting himself less, I suspect, through what he meant to say than by the way the words actually came out

Now he's said that poverty "is largely a state of mind."

That the cycle of poverty breaks the spirit and engenders a sense of hopelessness about ever breaking that cycle cannot be denied. That it has psychological effects which serve to dull the aspirations of those who experience it my causing them to perceive their situation as hopeless is obvious. That it can create a psychology of dependence among those for whom dependence has always been the only way to survive is beyond question. But once again, Dr. Carson has managed to say more than I believe he intended to. The statement seems to once again blame the victim, to discount the complex social and economic forces which create poverty and keep people enslaved to it.

I firmly believe that Ben Carson's miscues are usually a matter of a gentle, intelligent and decent man trying to make a legitimate point and ending up stating it in a way which makes him look like a fanatic or a fool. And yes, there is no question that the media are dominated by his ideological opponents, who work very hard to make his gaffes seem even worse than they actually are. But they're often pretty bad even without the negative spin.

Donald Trump, like the first Mayor Daley (whose press secretary, Earl Bush, once commanded reporters to "report what he means, not what he says") seems to think that he isn't responsible for his own choice of words. Inarticulate politicians like Mayor Daley are often quite able otherwise. His actual mistakes and blunders aside, the media would not have had nearly as much mean-spirited and partisan fun with the younger President Bush if Mr. Bush had been able to string two sentences together without tripping over them.  But when the words of an intelligent, thoughtful, and I think a fundamentally good man like Ben Carson so often end up coming out of his mouth in such a way as to do far more damage than good, perhaps the public eye is not the place for him.

Ben Carson is not much of a politician. But he is, by reputation, one of the finest pediatric brain surgeons in the nation. Maybe that's how he should be earning his living.


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