NYT Mag Cover Story Shows Carson Campaign Seeking to Tone Down Message

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Dr. Benjamin Carson
Dr. Ben Carson

Outrageous statements are kind of Dr. Ben Carson’s thing. They’re what his supporters love about him. They’re what his detractors hate about him. And they’re what makes the Republican establishment shudder at the thought of his candidacy. Still, Carson has been looking to tone them down a bit as of late. He sees that they prevent him from being taken seriously in the mainstream and don’t “allow [people] to hear what [he’s] saying.”

His quest for, in the lighthearted words of Carson’s business manager Armstrong Williams, “somebody to protect him, sometimes, from himself,” is covered in a cover article in the New York Times Magazine on “the celebrated pediatric neurosurgeon turned political insurrectionist,” coming out on Sunday. (The online version, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ben Carson?” is already up.)

So far, it’s not clear that the effort is panning out. Earlier this month, Carson became the butt of four consecutive Saturday Night Live jokes for his assertion that being gay is “absolutely” a choice “[b]ecause a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.”

Just Wednesday, he appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, an intellectually serious and foreign-policy-heavy affair. He got confused about which countries are members of NATO, framed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as a product of the feud between biblical brothers Jacob and Esau (isn’t it Isaac and Ishmael, anyway?), and pushed the “unique” opinion that Sunni and Shi’a radicals “would gladly unite against us in their attempt to destroy the United States, our way of life, and Israel.”

Carson’s campaign chairman Terry Giles sees the doctor’s chances as good in an exploding Republican field. If only he can do all right in Iowa and then win in South Carolina and then come in second in Florida…. or so the logic goes. New York Times Magazine‘s chief political correspondent Jim Rutenberg wonders whether “[r]ather than capitalizing on the chaos, Carson may only contribute to it.” That sounds a bit more likely.


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