Donald Trump is not being at all subtle in his latest wave of attacks on his current main opponent, Dr. Ben Carson, and it’s triggered yet another round of pundits wondering if The Donald has finally gone too far and crashed his campaign. But recall what has happened every other time people said Trump went overboard, whether he was tearing down Mexican immigrants, John McCain and POWs, or Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: No matter what, he just keeps rising in the polls.
Carson has built up a following among conservative, evangelical Christian (and largely white) voters in Iowa with his tales of moral redemption from a violent childhood, and The Donald is now setting out to depict Carson as dangerous — and maybe even inhuman.
Carson’s violent behavior in his adolescence is key to the salvation element so integral to his narrative — though lately the press has been inquiring whether the doctor may have fabricated or at least somewhat exaggerated those anecdotes. So it probably helps Trump that Carson has already spiked the ball for him, by putting himself in the uncomfortable position of insisting to the media that, yes, he was prone to violence as a youth.
Thus, Trump sees Carson in the predicament of being either a serial fabulist — and Trump has enjoyed playing up this possibility, too — or the violent menace that Trump wants to paint him as.
So, from that candidate who first made his political mark broadcasting conspiracy theories regarding President Obama’s birthplace, and kicked off his campaign by railing against immigrants, here is the message in brief: Ben Carson isn’t one of the good ones.
“He’s said in the book — and I haven’t seen it — I know it’s in the book that he’s got a pathological temper or temperament. That’s a big problem, because you don’t cure that,” Trump said during an interview Thursday on CNN. “That ‘s like — you know, I could say, as an example: child molester. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. ‘Pathological,’ there’s no cure for that. Now I didn’t say it — he said it in his book.”
The Donald wasn’t done yet, though — far from it. At his rally Thursday night in Iowa, during an epic 90-plus-minute stump speech, Trump upped the ante on grotesque sexual imagery, when he hinted at a literal castration of awful people like Carson.
“If you’re pathological, there’s no cure for that, folks. Okay? There’s no cure for that. And I did one of the shows today, and I don’t want to say what I said — but I’ll tell you, anyway. I said that if you’re a child molester, a sick puppy, you’re a child molester, there’s no cure for that. There’s only one cure, we don’t want to talk about that cure — that’s the ultimate cure. No, there’s two — there’s death, and the other thing.”
Initially, Carson tried to take the high road while speaking to reporters Friday morning, during an appearance at Bob Jones University, a center of religious-right politics. (Note: Bob Jones University did not admit African-American students until the 1970s, as they felt the squeeze of the new civil rights laws — but then prohibited any interracial dating, until changing that policy under political pressure during the 2000 presidential campaign.)
“Now that he’s completed his gratuitous attack, why don’t we press on and deal with the real issues. You know, the reason that I”m in this race is because there are some real, profound issues that affect the trajectory of our country right now. That is what the American people are concerned about,” Carson said.
But then when he did attempt any substantive rebuttal, Carson fell utterly flat.
“I’m hopeful that maybe his advisors will help him to understand the word ‘pathological,'” Carson said, “and recognize that does not denote ‘incurable’ — it’s not the same. It simply is an adjective that describes something that is highly abnormal, and something that fortunately I’ve been able to delivered from for a half a century now.”
In sum, Carson’s response to Trump saying that the doctor is incurably “pathological” was to didactically explain that such a person could be cured!
It wasn’t exactly the kind of response that would make Trump back down. Later on Friday, Trump’s campaign posted a Friday the 13th-themed horror-movie video about Carson, and the stories concerning whether or not Carson was really as angry a young man as he’s made himself out to be.
“Violent criminal? Or pathological liar? We don’t need either as president.”
Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump speaks as rival candidate Dr. Ben Carson (R) looks on at the debate held by Fox Business Network for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young