Did You Stay Awake Long Enough to Hear Ben Carson Call Hillary Lucifer?
A dispatch from the Unreality Convention.
By Jack Holmes, July 20, 2016
A short while after Chris Christie staged an off-Broadway production of The Crucible last night, another of 2016's forgotten men got his chance under the bright lights of the Quicken Loans Arena. Dr. Ben Carson, the world-renowned neurosurgeon with a scholar's interest in Egyptian history, took the stage and announced immediately that he was not politically correct. Normally you work that in somewhere along the way, but Carson was short on time and long on a more urgent mission: to bring the gathered Republicans' war on Hillary Clinton to a new level. By the end of his seven minutes, it was mission accomplished. He had successfully linked the presumptive Democratic nominee to the Dark Lord himself: Lucifer.
He also sealed the fate of this event in Cleveland. It is officially the Unreality Convention.
"One of the things that I have learned about Hillary Clinton is that one of her heroes, her mentors, was Saul Alinsky," he said, to immediate jeers. Alinsky is a mythical figure on the American right, the unrepentant commie bastard and notorious book-writer who exercises a dark influence over Barack Obama and any other Democrat who rises to power. He continued:
"Her senior thesis was about Saul Alinsky. This was someone she greatly admired and that affected all of her philosophy subsequently. He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals. On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Now think about that. This is a nation where our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, talked about certain inalienable rights that come from our Creator! This is a nation where our Pledge of Allegiance says we are one nation under God! This is a nation where every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallet says 'In God We Trust!' So are we willing to elect somebody as present who has as their role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that!"After some thought, this line of reasoning appears to be insane. First of all, writing a college paper on someone is not a complete endorsement of them and their entire philosophy. Did Carson only write essays on Biblical figures and the founding fathers? Actually, maybe—that kind of restriction on historical inquiry might just be how you come to think the pyramids were grain silos.
Furthermore, Alinsky did not dedicate that book to Lucifer—he dedicated it to his wife. As Vox reports, the reference to Lucifer as the first radical was among a bunch of quotes at the front of the book, and was a "tongue-in-cheek riff on Christian mythology." Nonetheless, Carson's claim is now a widespread tenet of conservative belief, as is the idea that Clinton, like Obama, is a secret communist Alinsky acolyte. (The belief that she is also a ruthlessly corrupt, greed-ridden capitalist willing to accept money from Wall Street and evil regimes does not seem to be at odds with this.)
Then there's the rest. Though it's not a legal document, the Declaration of Independence does say rights are our endowed by our Creator. But the Pledge of Allegiance also has no legal standing, and did not feature the words "under God" until 1954, in what some contend was an expressly political maneuver. The other notion at play here—nearly claiming that Thomas Jefferson carved "In God We Trust" into the first pennies himself—is also just ahistorical: the motto was added to currency in 1955, as part of the same anti-Godless-communist initiative.
In aggregate, Carson's speech was a tangled web of contradictions. He announced himself "proud" to support Donald Trump, the man who compared him to a "child molester" in the primaries. (It was not unlike Rick Perry, one of Monday's speakers, who endorsed Trump enthusiastically after calling him a "cancer on conservatism" a few months back.) Carson also had the audacity to say the following:
"We must also be wary of the narrative that's being advanced by some in our own party—the notion that a Hillary Clinton administration wouldn't be that bad. That the effects would only be termporary. That it would only last for four, and at most eight years. They're not using their God-given brain to think about what they're saying. It won't be just four years, because she will be appointing people who will have an effect on us for generations, and America may never recover from that."Of course, it was Carson who, soon after endorsing Trump, said that even if he "turns out not to be such a great president ... we're only looking at four years." This is as good a time as any, though, to ask if America will ever recover from this campaign.
Ultimately, it was an unrelenting display of the fact that, for the purposes of this event, anything inconvenient that happened previously simply did not happen, while everything else happened however you feel like it happened.
The putative theme of Tuesday night was "Make America Work Again," but like the night before, it had a heavy dose of Benghazi. So it was all the better when Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader, walked out on stage earlier in the evening. It was McCarthy, after all, who said on national television that the Benghazi committees in the House were convened to bring down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers—and yet here he was among all those who, after eight Republican-led committees failed to find Clinton at fault for the death of four Americans in Libya, repeatedly said she was at fault.
Outside the arena and the miles of perimeter fences, there are countless street stands selling memorabilia. There are Trump shirts, RNC pins, even limited-edition politically-themed cereals. In one storefront on Euclid Avenue, there's a selection of Republican campaign posters, most honoring the party legends of the Reagan mold. Except, that is, for an unlikely pair right in amongst them. There, smiling back at you, you'll find Sarah Palin and Richard Nixon.
Palin's sign is a recognizable fantasy—a what-might-have-been for the Tea Party crowd. But it is a testament to the alternate dimension into which downtown Cleveland has drifted this week that Richard M. Nixon sits beside her, just another good Republican man whose face you might throw up on the wall. The sins and the scandal and the resignation to avoid impeachment are not forgotten, because they never happened.
And then there was Carson's analysis of the campaign at hand.
"You know what?" he asked the crowd last night. "It is not about Donald Trump...it's about We the People."