Beating Up on Ben Carson

Ben Carson's poll numbers have been steadily climbing. He is now in a tie with Donald Trump in Iowa.  Like Trump, Carson is an outsider candidate.  Not part of the political establishment.  Not a member of the Washington, D.C. Beltway elite.  Not a member of a dynastic ruling family, as are two other candidates.

Now that his poll numbers are high enough that his candidacy is being taken seriously, the media has affixed a large target on his back.  As the old saying goes, the tallest blade of grass is the first to get cut.

The first salvo was an attack on his wife Candy Carson's appearance – her clothes, her hairstyle, and her lack of make-up.  I thought it was the right waging the "war on women."  Turns out the left is waging one, particularly against women the left disagrees with politically.

Second is the question of his knowledge and fitness to lead the country.  The Republican establishment is questioning Dr. Carson's understanding of the world beyond neurosurgery.  Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal noted that Carson is "not as schooled as some of the other candidates" in matters of policy.  From conservative blog RedState, we have "Ben Carson's continuing baffling ignorance on basic issues."  The Hill states simply, "Smart isn't enough."

The Hill goes on further to say, "While he clearly prepared for his career, he appears to have done little or no preparation in his run for president, and the media are giving him a pass on it."  Could the same be said of Barack Obama in 2008?  Or Hillary Clinton now?

What did Barack Obama do in preparation for the White House?  Served in the Illinois legislature voting "present"?  A few years in the U.S. Senate doing nothing but running for president?  His days as a community organizer?  Pondering the mysteries of the world in the pews of Reverend Wright's church?

What about Hillary Clinton?  Nonstop scandals during her tenure as first lady?  An undistinguished Senate career?  Her legacy of mismanagement and incompetence as secretary of state?

Yet it's Ben Carson as the rube, his career as a distinguished surgeon and department chairman counting for nothing.

Third is the media digging into Carson's past with a fervor reserved only for Sarah Palin and other conservative candidates.  Within days of her VP announcement, the media descended on Wasilla, Alaska, and we knew the minutiae of Sarah Palin's life.  The same can't be said about Barack Obama and his life story, even to this day.

Looking way back into Carson's life, note CNN's recent headline, "Carson's violent past: Bricks, bats, hammers," which paints Ben Carson in an unflattering light, as a thug.  Ironic that CNN's own Don Lemon believes that "thug" is a racist term.  One has to read the story to realize this was a 14-year-old Ben Carson, with a temper common to teenage boys growing up in bad neighborhoods in Detroit.  Does his rough childhood 50 years ago disqualify him to be president?  CNN certainly hopes so.

Will CNN be as interested in Hillary Clinton's violent past – not when she was a teenager, but when she was first lady?  Ben Carson might have thrown a brick as a troubled teenager, but Hillary Clinton threw a lamp at the president, during the Monica Lewinsky days, causing him to need stitches.  Looking for a CNN headline reading, "Clinton's violent past? Lamp and books"?  Don't hold your breath.

Does Ben Carson have the smarts and temperament to be president?  That is for the voters to decide.  I contend that being a policy wonk is not necessary for the job.  Instead, the president needs a sound moral compass, ethics beyond reproach, a love of America, the ability to surround him- or herself with capable advisers, and a strong dose of common sense.

To paraphrase psychologist and author M. Scott Peck, "if your will is steadfastly to the good, and you are willing to suffer fully when the good seems ambiguous, you will do the right thing."  That, in my opinion, is a major reason why Ben Carson is so popular.  Voters believe that his will is good and that regardless of his policy knowledge and experience today, he will do the right thing when it counts.

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based retina surgeon and writer.  Follow him on Facebook  and Twitter