Over at TPM, Ed Kilgore argues that Ben Carson may be even more dangerous an ideologue than Donald Trump is, and unlike Herman Cain, he's not going anywhere.
Cain was not a revered figure before running in 2012, beyond those who listened when he sat in for an Atlanta-based radio host. He also was not exactly a non-politician, having run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. But the most important reason to stop identifying Carson with Cain is simple: Cain’s loss of his once-high poll ratings were not caused by a voters getting tired with a “flavor of the month” or realizing his slim qualifications; he was brought down by a series of sexual allegations that escalated from multiple claims of sexual harassment to a long-term extramarital affair. Cain never admitted any wrong-doing, but he also never convincingly rebutted the allegations, and all the smoke convinced many observers there might be fire. He left the race on his own terms, but after losing most of his altitude.
There’s zero reason to think Carson has any such skeletons in his closet. The one thing we know about his background that is politically dangerous is his testimonial work for a subsequently fined nutritional supplement company. But unless it turns out he was paid a lot more than seems to be the case, he’s only in hot water if he cannot soon keep his story straight. Being a straight shooter is extremely important to his image.
He seems to have successfully back-pedaled on his one easy-to-understand policy heresy, a proposal to replace Medicare and Medicaid with heavily subsidized health savings accounts, which he now describes as an “option” for beneficiaries (that, too, is problematic, but not as much as his original “idea”).
So there remains what should actually disqualify Carson: his extremist, paranoid “world-view” which treats regular boring old center-left liberals as conscious and systematically deceitful would-be destroyers of this country bent on imposing a Marxist tyranny via “politically correct” suppression of free speech and confiscation of guns.
There’s unquestionably a constituency for this point of view, but we may never know whether it would outnumber the Republicans baffled or horrified by it until such time as one of his rivals or the heretofore clueless media start talking about it. If they don’t pretty soon, then one theory of the 2016 GOP nominating process could come true: conservatives want to rerun the 1964 elections, and they’ve finally found their Barry Goldwater.
And that's some relatively scary stuff. Carson may be soft-spoken and somewhat obsessed with weird stuff like grain-storing pyramids, but the man's worldview is pretty clear: liberals aren't just politically opposed to Carson and the GOP, liberals are Communist enemies of the state that must be purged from the country. As Ed points out in his piece, MoJo's David Corn has documented Carson's hero, Bircher nutbag Cleon Skousen, pretty well.
Carson swears by Skousen, who died in 2006. In a July 2014 interview, Carson contended that Marxist forces had been using liberals and the mainstream media to undermine the United States. His source: Skousen. "There is a book called The Naked Communist," he said. "It was written in 1958. Cleon Skousen lays out the whole agenda, including the importance of getting people into important positions in the mainstream media so they can help drive the agenda. Well, that's what's going on now." Four months later, while being interviewed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News, Carson denounced unnamed Marxists who were presently seeking to destroy American society: "There was a guy who was a former CIA agent by the name of Cleon Skousen who wrote a book in 1958 called The Naked Communist, and it laid out the whole agenda. You would think by reading it that it was written last year—showing what they're trying to do to American families, what they're trying to do to our Judeo-Christian faith, what they're doing to morality." (Skousen had been an FBI employee—not a CIA officer—and mainly engaged in administrative and clerical duties; later he was a professor at Brigham Young University and police chief of Salt Lake City.) And the most recent edition of this Skousen book boasts Carson's endorsement on the front cover: "The Naked Communist lays out the whole progressive plan. It is unbelievable how fast it has been achieved."
Skousen's book was a hyperbolic, far-from-sophisticated Cold War denouncement of communism and the Soviet Union. Marx, Skousen claimed, had set out "to create a race of human beings conditioned to think like criminals." And in McCarthyesque fashion, Skousen contended that "agents of communism" had "penetrated every echelon of American society—including some of the highest offices of the United States Government." He insisted that many "loyal Americans" had been duped by Communists into doing the Reds' dirty work because "they are not aware that these objectives are designed to destroy us." Thus, these fellow travelers and naive citizens were part of a "campaign to soften America for the final takeover."
Skousen listed dozens of the goals of the commies and their useful idiots, including pushing free trade, promoting coexistence with the Soviet bloc, capturing "one or both of the political parties in the United States," winning control of schools ("use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda"), and infiltrating the press ("get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, and policy making positions"). He said they wanted to control "key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures," weaken American culture by degrading artistic expression (and substituting "good sculpture from parks and building" with "shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms"), and present homosexuality as "normal, natural, and healthy." What's more, he claimed, they wanted to discredit the Bible, eliminate prayer in schools, demean the American Founding Fathers as "selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the 'common man,'" and support "any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture—education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc." He said they also wanted to encourage divorce and promiscuity, incite "special-interest groups" to "rise up…to solve economic, political or social problems," and seize control of unions and big business.
If this all sounds like Glenn Beck-level "blackboard full of plans for fluoride to become the next caliphate" insanity, that's because it is. It's quite easy to laugh this garbage off as funny, but it's not.
This guy is leading the polls now among the GOP.