Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.
When retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the current GOP 2016 front-runner, campaigns, he routinely pitches "common sense solutions from We the People." But it seems the candidate who celebrates a cheerful and straightforward populism has a fair bit of disdain for many of his fellow citizens, for at a videotaped event last year, while discussing the American people, he declared, "Many of them are stupid."
Carson made this observation while speaking at the Richard Nixon library on October 19, 2014, as part of a book tour. After a fifteen-minute talk—prior to a book-signing—Carson was asked if he might run for president as an independent. He vowed not to do so, noting this would fracture the Republican vote. He then pivoted to another topic: unnamed political foes—presumably liberals, progressives, secularists, Marxists, or whatever—penetrating key elements of American society to gain control of the nation:
They can twist and turn things as much as they want. But what they don't understand—and they miscalculated. They were doing a great job in terms of fundamentally changing this nation. In terms of infiltrating the school systems. In terms of infiltrating the media. All of this—they've done a great job. Everything was perfect. Except they underestimated the intelligence of the American people. The people are not as stupid as they think they are. Many of them are stupid. Okay. But I'm talking about overall.
The crowd laughed when Carson made that crack about dumb Americans, and Carson let out a loud guffaw.
In answering the same question, Carson also noted that he could escape the corruptions of conventional politics by deftly using social media, and, with no apparent sense of hyperbole, he suggested that Fox News was preventing America from becoming a totalitarian state:
Even if all the media tries to shut you down—which they have tried very much to do with me. But they can't because the good Lord has provided me with mechanisms like my syndicated column and like Fox News. We'd be Cuba if there were no Fox News.
This was another applause line for the crowd of Carson fans, who had greeted Carson's arrival with shouts of "run, Ben, run." According to the financial disclosure form Carson filed in June that covered the preceding 12 months, he made $492,115 as a Fox News commentator and $137,148 as a columnist for the Washington Times.
Carson's remarks about stupid Americans and the insidious plotting of unidentified elements to sneakily seize key American institutions were in sync with previous statements from this political novice who recently vaulted to the front of the Republican pack. Carson has long noted that he's a fan of W. Cleon Skousen, who in 1958 wrote a book called The Naked Communist, a dark and paranoid screed that maintained that commies had "penetrated every echelon of American society"—from PTAs, art salons, media entities, social program offices, and entertainment companies to the "highest offices of the United States Government." Skousen believed that the civil rights movement, acceptance of homosexuality, the rise of abstract art and modernism, and the advent of Medicare and Social Security were all part of a clandestine scheme mounted by communists and others to destroy the United States. Twelve years later, Skousen expanded his conspiracy theorizing to claim that a global cabal of bankers controlled the world from behind the scenes.
Carson has repeatedly—including last year on Fox News—cited Skousen, who died in 2006, as the key to understanding what has happened in the United States over the past half-century. The most recent edition of Skousen's book trumpets 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." In 2007, the conservative National Review called Skousen an "all-around nutjob."
Asked if Carson thinks that many Americans are stupid, a Carson spokesman said, "Sounds like he forgot to insert his usual 'in Washington.'"
Carson does seemingly believe that for decades the American public has been slyly manipulated by an enemy from within. And he often decries political elites for adopting a condescending approach toward the citizenry and imposing their own views and positions upon the rest of the nation. On the campaign trail, he dismisses political experience as a qualification for office and contends that a candidate who demonstrates faith, honesty, and character can effectively govern by relying upon the wisdom of the American people. Yet at the Nixon library, Carson indicated he holds a significant number of voters in low regard. Presumably, they don't count in his We the People.
Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and political novice, has leaped to the head of the GOP's 2016 pack in Iowa. The most recent Des Moines Registerpoll placed him in the lead with 28 percent, and this surge is undoubtedly fueled by religion. In the survey, he was backed by 33 percent of born-again Republican Christians, a hefty voting bloc in the first-caucus state. (In a Monmouth University poll this summer, he was the first choice of 29 percent of Iowa evangelicals.) Moreover, a whopping 89 percent of the Republicans in the Register poll said they found Carson an attractive candidate because he has vowed his actions will be guided by his faith in God.
Religion and politics can make a volatile mix. In the case of Carson, this overlap is an essential part of his success. Yet it is odd that Carson has done so well with evangelicals when he is a high-profile and devoted member of a church that teaches that almost all evangelical Christians will soon join with Satan to oppose Jesus Christ.
When noted film director Barry Levinson (Diner, Rain Man, The Natural, Bugsy, Wag the Dog, and many more) first read the script for his new film, Rock the Kasbah, he realized he needed the help of a pop icon: Yusuf Islam—that is, the singer/songwriter formely known as Cat Stevens.
In this comedy (dark at times, sweet at times), which opens this weekend, Bill Murray plays a down-and-way-out LA talent manager who has but one act left in his falling-apart stable, a neurotic bar singer (Zooey Deschanel). Yet somehow he finds a gig for her: USO shows in Afghanistan. And off they jet to the war zone, where soon Murray's only meal ticket abandons him, and he's stranded in Kabul with no passport, no money, and no way home. Hijinks—and violence—ensue, as Murray falls into the world of sleazy arms dealers, cynical American mercenaries (including a tough guy played by Bruce Willis), and competing tribal warlords. But this is no adventure flick. It's a tale of cultural and spiritual bridge-building—with laughs—because Murray, stuck at one point in rural Afghanistan, stumbles into a cave and discovers an Afghan teenage girl (Leem Lubany) singing beautifully. And the song she's covertly crooning is Cat Stevens' "Trouble."
Chaos, chaos, and chaos. Rep. Kevin McCarthy's withdrawal from the speaker's race has caused disarray—that is, greater disarray—within the House GOP conference. Hours after McCarthy's announcement, there was no word of what comes next. Who might jump in? Would a caretaker candidate emerge? How long could Speaker John Boehner stay in the job? And, it seemed, the House tea partiers who had somewhat caused this crisis—they had succeeded in driving Boehner from the job and had deemed McCarthy insufficiently conservative—were yearning for more chaos. The House Freedom Caucus, the tea party GOPers, put out this statement:
Note that last sentence: "The next Speaker needs to yield back power to the membership for the sake of both the institution and the country." In other words, we don't want a speaker who is going to try to govern in a time of divided government; we don't want a speaker who will endeavor to forge a compromise on behalf of the GOP conference and make the system work; and, as a government shutdown looms and a possible debt ceiling crisis approaches, we want a speaker who will step to the side and let the chaos reign. This is the congressional equivalent of "burn, baby, burn."
Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who's in the top tier of the GOP's 2016 contenders, holds some unusual beliefs. In defending creationism, he has said Satan is behind the Big Bang theory and the promotion of evolution, and he has embraced and endorsed a paranoid McCarthyesque conspiracy theory that claims nefarious Marxists for decades have infiltrated every echelon of American society—including PTAs—in order to destroy the United States. But, it seems, Carson's conspiratorial worldview goes beyond all this. In a talk he gave a year ago, Carson, who is a Seventh-day Adventist, indicated that he accepts a dark prophecy rendered a century and a half ago by a founder of his church. She claimed that as part of the End Times (the apocalyptic period when Jesus Christ supposedly will return and battle with the devil), a time will come when Seventh-day Adventists will be imprisoned by the government and even put to death merely for observing the Sabbath on Saturday, not Sunday.
Some background: The Seventh-day Adventist Church traces back to the 1820s, when William Miller, a veteran of the War of 1812, told people that Jesus Christ was heading back to Earth in 1843 or 1844. After "the Advent" didn't occur, Miller's followers didn't give up. They concluded that he had gotten the date wrong, and the church continued. A crucial part of its theology was that the Sabbath starts on Friday night and concludes on Saturday at sundown.