It’s not brain surgery. It’s politics. And Dr. Ben Carson doesn’t belong in tonight’s debate. More than just a botched campaign, his bid is a serious case of malpractice against the Republican Party and the American people.
Though an accomplished surgeon and an engaging speaker, Carson lacks the qualifications and experience necessary for the presidency. By whimsically throwing his hat in the ring, he’s pushing more qualified candidates — many with long histories of successfully winning elections and managing government — off the stage and out of contention.
If he’s serious about healing and reviving the nation, Ben Carson should leave the limelight and return to the hospital’s operating room.
Carson: Brilliant Surgeon But A Poor Statesman
It’s not just that Carson can’t win. It’s that he’d be a bad president because Carson’s no statesman. The art of politics, statesmanship requires knowledge of ultimate principle and the skill to craft that vision of the good into successful policies. In an essay on painting of all things, Winston Churchill clarified this distinction.
That British Aristotle wrote that statesmanship was analogous to painting and argued that before one can fill a canvas, he must possess an “all embracing view…of the beginning and the end, the whole and each part.” Only when the artist understands every facet of his subject can he decide whether to shade here or lighten there. So it is with war and politics, Churchill argued.
To win a battle, a general must survey the landscape and the circumstances. To win an argument, a statesman must understand his people, the policy in question, and the underlying principles. He must know how to pressure colleagues here, concede with opponents there, and advance liberty always.
While he’s certainly the Botticelli of neurosurgery, Carson lacks these political skills because he lacks the political experience required to develop them. If a certain phony loser in the GOP field were to require a lobotomy, Carson would be the guy to call. But if there’s a phone ringing at 3:00 a.m. in the White House, if there’s news of a Senate filibuster or budget blitz on the other line, conservatives want a skilled political operator answering the call.
None can deny Carson’s inspiring contributions to medicine. From a rough Detroit neighborhood to a John Hopkins operating room, he’s beaten the odds dozens of times to pioneer life-saving procedures. And who can forget that National Prayer Breakfast, the one where he called President Obama out, to his face? But tonight, neither the president nor an operating table will be onstage, and Carson will be out of his element.
In 2008, the doctor deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Today he deserves continued respect as a visionary surgeon. But he does not deserve GOP votes for the presidency or a presidential debate podium.
Sure, Carson exudes a charisma many find refreshing after decades of the unified malfeasance of Washington’s partisan gridlock and bickering. But sound bytes and clichés are poor transplants for experienced leadership and a reasoned policy platform.
He’s A Great Doctor, But Politically, He’s Violating The Hippocratic Oath
Don’t misunderstand. A quick review of Carson’s resume reflects a man well-equipped to become the next Surgeon General but not the leader of the free world. That’s not my opinion. That’s an established historical fact.
Since Washington, every single president has followed a similar path to the Oval Office. They’ve either served as generals, legislators, or state executives first. A tradition reverberating with reason, this track more or less ensures that our leaders have been measured and tested and found capable.
While Carson might have a steady hand for surgery, it’s uncertain whether he has one for a political paintbrush. And voters can’t make an educated decision about his politics because he doesn’t have a political record to run on. The men he helped bump out of the first debate, they do.
In the second debate tier are Governors Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki. They have weathered political storms at the state level. Senators Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum have cast votes of national consequence and have won multiple statewide elections. Voters can love or hate them. They could have reasons to support of dismiss them. But thanks to Carson’s charade, most of the electorate won’t get a chance to hear anything from them.
The doctor may be pulling the plug on these serious candidates, pushing their campaigns into a media-coma before the first primary. Without press coverage, good policy platforms will go undiagnosed by the media and unseen by the public.
A brilliant surgeon, Dr. Carson hasn’t developed the political skills necessary to win an election and govern well. The GOP’s in-house surgeon is violating his oath to do no harm by running without a record. And the longer he campaigns, the more anemic serious candidates become.