A Fool in Genius’ Clothing
Being a brilliant surgeon won’t stop you from sounding like a clueless politician.
Ben Carson has been the talk of conservative circles ever since he delivered a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013 that many saw as critical of President Obama. In case you didn’t know, Dr. Carson is a retired brain surgeon of international renown. He is also the author of a book about how to “save America’s future”, a frequent guest on Fox News, and 2016 presidential contender. Ben Carson is a man who is now more relevant for his political commentary and presidential run than his expertise in medicine. That’s unfortunate because he has little to offer to the former but still seems to draw credibility from his career in the latter.
This isn’t simply a partisan analysis. On the subject of healthcare, one on which you would assume he’d be uniquely qualified to speak, the depth of his analysis typically comes down to tired lines about a government takeover of healthcare. You’re probably already aware of how he feels about the Affordable Care Act.
“You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson, who is African American, said Friday in remarks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”
Carson also said Obamacare is worse than 9/11. He tried to clean up both comments by saying that his critics were misinterpreting his words and ignoring the broader issues he was trying to explain. But that’s part of the problem. He has nothing of substance to say. Add to those missteps his recent comments, and subsequent apology, about homosexuality and you can clearly see that he is not a man that should be considered for national office. In fact, his political career to date is marked more by his wild hyperbole than any cogent policy views.
One has to wonder why Ben Carson is seen as a serious (by some) 2016 presidential contender. I understand why Republicans like him. He is a world-famous surgeon with a compelling up-from-your-bootstraps personal narrative. Carson is even more popular because he, like Herman Cain, comes from outside of the political establishment. Carson has also publicly criticized the Obama administration and enjoys a great deal of support from white conservatives, in part because he can say things about blacks and white liberals that they cannot.
For people who don’t share his politics, my guess is that people take his career as a brain surgeon and, quite reasonably, assume that he must be a very smart guy. But being a brilliant surgeon doesn’t mean you would be a good president. This should come as no surprise. Would you want your dentist to moonlight as your financial advisor? Would you pay to see professional athletes perform on Broadway? Of course not. That’s because most of us recognize that functioning at the highest level of any profession takes work, expertise, commitment, and dedication. It isn’t something that is transferred from one area to another through osmosis. A person’s expertise in one field might open doors to other opportunities but they’ve got to be up to the task if those doors are to stay open. Carson hasn’t shown anything to suggest he’s up to the task. His door will close soon enough.