What a Friday that was: Ben Carson showed emotion when pushing back against a desperately dirt-digging media — dirt-digging against Republicans, that is; George Will remained equanimous in the face of a verbal assault from Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly; Barack Obama gave the coup de grâce to the Keystone XL pipeline; and I had the chance to talk to Fox News’ James Rosen about his fascinating new book on former Vice President Dick Cheney.
(The several links to the Ben Carson story in Politico are different from each other, each representing a new phase in Politico’s incompetent and unethical writing and editing.)
On Friday morning, the website Politico.com, continuing its steady journey into the realm of just-another-propaganda-arm-of-the-DNC, posted a big bold story, intended no doubt to let the air out of the trustworthy sails of Dr. Ben Carson’s political ambitions: “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship.” The article’s subtitle read, “Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted that a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated.”
After furious denials from the Carson campaign, Politico edited the article so that the title now reads “Exclusive: Carson claimed West Point ‘scholarship’ but never applied” and the subtitle states “Republican hits POLITICO story, later admits to The New York Times he wasn’t offered aid.” In this first stealth edit, Politico offered no editor’s note pointing out that any change had been made, much less one as enormous as removing the word “fabricated.” As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel (nobody’s idea of a conservative) noted, “taking ‘fabrication’ out of that headline is like taking uranium out of an A-bomb.”
Eventually, Politico added an editor’s note in which they argue that Ben Carson lied about claiming to have “received a ‘full scholarship’ to West Point” because “in fact he did not and there is actually no such thing as a ‘full scholarship’ to the taxpayer-funded academy.” Politico reiterates later “there are no ‘full scholarships’” at West Point.
Somebody should alert Lt. Gen Caslen, the current Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, that his website is wrong.
The online “prospectus” for West Point (see p. 32 here) explicitly states that “As a cadet, you are a member of the U.S. Army and receive a full scholarship…” The website west-point.org, a non-profit organization “connecting almost 30,000 USMA grads, parents, and friends of West Point,” notes the same thing. A book entitled From the Army to College confirms: “A full scholarship paying tuition and room and board is awarded to each student.” Another document from the West Point website itself states, “At the United States Military Academy all students receive a full scholarship…” [emphasis added in each case]
This stuff is not hard to find; for the Politico reporter to repeat emphatically that there are no full scholarships at West Point means simply that he did not take 15 seconds to search the Web because he was in such a hurry to torpedo Ben Carson. A half-competent editor would also have found this glaring and article-disqualifying error had he not shared the same excitement over becoming a hero at liberal cocktail parties everywhere.
Mollie Hemingway, senior editor of TheFederalist.com, has done a masterful job of shredding the lies of Politico — which she points out is the actual fabricator. It bears repeating that it wasn’t just Politico’s title and subtitle which were mendacious, but also the article’s opening paragraph: In its original version, Politico wrote that Carson had “fabricated his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.”
In the edited version, they water it down to mumbling that Carson “conceded that he never applied nor was granted admission to West Point…” However, I can find no evidence — nor does Politico offer any — that Carson ever claimed to have applied or been granted admission; indeed he has always said that he politely declined encouragement to attend West Point because he was determined to become a doctor.
Politico’s argument seems to be that by claiming to have been offered a scholarship, Carson implicitly claimed to have applied. This is an utterly spurious assertion. Furthermore, keep in mind that Ben Carson was a teenager, meeting with Medal of Honor recipients and the most famous general of his youth, and that the most likely conversation would have been, “If you seek an appointment, given your record with ROTC, young Mr. Carson, you’re all but sure to receive one, and that includes a full scholarship.” I don’t believe that Carson has ever claimed or implied anything more than that.
The same “reporters” who have no curiosity about Barack Obama’s terrorist and America-hating friends or his sealed college records are foaming at the mouth over whether a recollection of a 17-year-old Ben Carson included precisely the accurate description of tuition structure or acceptance process at a college Carson didn’t even attend?
Of course, the even-handed Politico simultaneously posted some very tough articles about Democrats including “Sanders shows a softer side in MSNBC forum” and “Source: Key Clinton emails did not contain highly classified secrets” (in which everybody who is willing to speak for the record says no such determination has yet been made, but Politico is going with its anonymous source to exculpate the serial liar and maker-of-poor-decisions whom they support for president.) And that’s the aggressive mainstream media vetting of Democrats, at least in comparison to AP’s gem of a story: “Clinton faces tough question: What to call Bill if she wins.” You can’t make this stuff up.
On Friday, Dr. Carson gave a fiery press conference in which he pushed back hard against the media onslaught. It was an obvious strategy for Carson, following on the successful GOP pushback against liberal media bias during the last Republican debate. Carson’s fundamental conclusion: “There is a desperation on behalf of some to try to find a way to tarnish me… but it’s OK because I totally expect it.” The feeding frenzy of assembled reporters over such an insignificant story simply proved his point.
CNN had liberal hearts aflutter earlier in the week by reporting their inability to corroborate stories of Carson’s self-reported flashes of anger, including moments of violence, during his youth.
So why is this happening?
Because the left has seen recent polls showing that Ben Carson has not only the highest ratings among current candidates on the question of honesty and trustworthiness but perhaps the highest ratings ever for any presidential candidate. While Carson finds more than 60 percent of voters believing him to be honest, the opposite is true for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, each of whom have about 60 percent saying they are not honest and trustworthy.
That’s why Hillary-loving Politico and Donald Trump — who tweeted out another typical Trump whopper — “WOW, one of many lies by Ben Carson! Big story” — are on the rampage. Actually, it’s no story at all. But you attack a candidate where he is strong, and that’s what Trump and the media — who seem to take their vetting responsibility much more enthusiastically when it comes to Republicans — are doing by questioning Dr. Carson’s honesty.
Carson is on a knife edge here and much depends on his behavior as well as to whether the media can actually prove a lie; Carson insists there is no lie to find and that “lying is a grave sin.” His press conference performance was fairly solid, righteous indignation just reaching the edge of acceptability, the next step beyond which would be politically comparable to Howard Dean’s campaign-ending scream; that would suit the liberal media just as well.
If no actual fabrications are unearthed — Politico’s overreach (and Donald Trump’s typically outrageous and mean-spirited recasting and exaggeration of Dr. Carson’s childhood story) could make Carson the sympathetic victim. Indeed, Carson predicted that very thing on Friday.
But the long knives are out for Ben Carson; he and his supporters must hope that he hasn’t, in speeches or in writing, given the media or a vicious Trump campaign a way to slash him.
Later on Friday, Fox News aired an interview-confrontation between Bill O’Reilly and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will who discussed — though that’s far too gentle a word for what took place — Mr. Will’s aggressive column criticizing O’Reilly’s recent best-selling book, Killing Reagan, as a “no-facts zone.” Will added to the vehement debunking by Reagan historians of what the book claims as fact as well as of the research methods and due diligence of Mr. O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard.
When Will questioned why O’Reilly did not interview people who were closest to Ronald Reagan, O’Reilly responded that he never speaks to people who “have skin in the game.” That seems a weak excuse for avoiding the real experts; if O’Reilly could have interviewed people who knew Reagan and his presidency best, it could not have been that difficult to note the authors’ supposition of the interviewees’ biases, or to exclude information that the authors believed to be overly prejudicial or hagiographic.
While Mr. Will’s reproach of O’Reilly’s work was forceful, O’Reilly’s behavior — even for a man no doubt defending his brand, not just a book — was unprofessional if not disgraceful toward Will, who himself did not give an inch. Indeed, O’Reilly, demonstrated exactly the kind of behavior that Ben Carson must never exhibit it he wants to remain a credible candidate for president.
As if that weren’t enough news for one day, several hours earlier President Obama surprised approximately nobody by finally announcing what we’ve all known for some time: that he has no intention of permitting the construction of the American section of the Keystone XL pipeline. After laying the blame for the decision at the feet of Secretary of State John Kerry and then “agreeing with that decision” (such courageous leadership!), Obama offered rationales so contrary to science, economics, and logic that only a liberal would accept them.
They included the assertion that since oil prices were lower than they were in recent years, it’s pointless to do anything that might lower them further (because $2 per gallon is low enough, right?), and that since the economy has created jobs in recent years, it’s pointless to do anything that might create more of them (because the job you have is good enough, right?). But what do you expect from the man who once said, “At a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”
It is remarkable to see a president whose commitment to the cult of man-made climate change is so complete that he is willing to harm American consumers and workers and infuriate labor unions whom Democrats normally cozy up to. Indeed, the only argument the president made for spiking the pipeline project that makes sense even in the context of a wild-eyed hater of fossil fuels is that doing so increases his credibility among his fellow travelers at the upcoming international climate change conference in Paris. There, Obama will no doubt try to rope the United States into economically harmful policies and massive redistribution of wealth from the US to the Third World in the name of “climate justice.” This after China was found to have been underreporting its coal usage by an amount equal to the entire annual coal usage of Germany. But, hey, if you can trust Iran to honor an agreement, why not China?
My week ended — actually, my weekend began, early Saturday morning — on a more interesting note: I had the opportunity to interview Fox News’s Chief Washington Correspondent, James Rosen, about his new book, Cheney: One on One (audio of our conversation starts about 33 minutes into this podcast), which is based on over 10 hours of in-depth interviews of Cheney by Rosen. The book covers everything from Cheney’s relationship with George W. Bush and the decline in the vice president’s influence over the course of eight years, to his very personal views on faith, to how he feels about being called “Darth Vader,” and everything in between.
Dick Cheney, whatever you think of the man, was the most influential vice president in generations, and perhaps in our nation’s history. Understanding what motivated the man and how he perceives his place in our history is fascinating stuff, all the more because the questions asked of him were posed by someone who asks interesting and important questions for a living. If you are even passingly interested in history and politics, Cheney: One on One is well worth your time.
After a Friday hearing the lies of Politico, the bile of Trump, and the furious pushback of Carson, the mutual bashing of George Will and Bill O’Reilly, and the mindlessness of a president dead-set on weakening this nation in every important aspect, a conversation with the even-keeled James Rosen about a character as multi-faceted as Dick Cheney was a welcome start to my weekend (which included my kids’ final cross-country race of the year; it’s quite something to watch a bunch of second graders struggle through a mile and a quarter in near-freezing temperatures. Builds character, as my dad would say).
I hope your weekend also brought a welcome respite from the disheartening mess that is our current American political discourse. I almost feel bad reminding you about it this Monday morning.