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.
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.
Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and political novice near the top of the GOP presidential polls, does not spend much time and energy promoting specific policy stances. He has soared to a statistical tie with Donald Trump by emphasizing his outsider status and calling to revive America, deploying general right-wing rhetoric that resonates with social conservatives. At the recent Republican debate, he said, "The thing that is probably most important is having a brain." But he has provided one important clue as to his fundamental political worldview, by repeatedly endorsing a far-right conspiracy theorist named W. Cleon Skousen, who was characterized in 2007 by the conservative National Review as an "all-around nutjob." Skousen came to prominence in the 1950s as a virulent anti-Communist crusader; he later claimed that a global cabal of bankers controlled the world from behind the scenes, and he once wrote a book that referred to the "blessings of slavery."
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."
John Boehner, a legislator who relishes regular order, has decided to orchestrate his own orderly departure from the House as speaker, rather than contend with a possible mutiny arising from a government shutdown that is materializing on Capitol Hill due to the battle over funding for Planned Parenthood. On Friday morning, Boehner announced he would be resigning within weeks (which might allow him the freedom to prevent his own party from causing another shutdown). This is not that great of a surprise. The surprise is that Boehner, an insider institutionalist leading a band of blow-it-up tea partiers, has lasted so long—that is, that he put up with the nonsense in his caucus and managed to survive. But he survived by yielding to the extreme forces in the GOP, which he and other party leaders had fueled and exploited to win control of Congress. Consequently, Boehner will exit the speakership with few positive accomplishments. He failed his own side by not stopping President Barack Obama on health care reform and other measures that conservatives despise, and he failed himself by not achieving any grand legislation that bears his mark. As speaker, he was more of an attendant than a legislator.
There was a specific month when Boehner's dream of being a historic speaker evaporated: July 2011. His fellow Republicans had precipitated a crisis in Washington by refusing to accede to a routine move—raising the debt ceiling so the US government could pay its bills. Tea partiers were demanding deficit reduction and huge cuts in government spending in return for lifting the debt ceiling and threatening a financial crash. This led to a flurry of talks between the president and GOP leaders, and Obama saw this crisis as an opportunity. He initiated secret negotiations with Boehner. Why did they have to be undercover? To protect Boehner. The speaker could not persuade his own caucus that talking with the president to explore compromise had any value.
There is much that is impressive about Ben Carson. His rags-to-riches personal history. His medical accomplishments as a neurosurgeon. He is a best-selling author and a public speaker who draws substantial fees for his appearances. In the TV movie based on his life, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays the lead role. Carson certainly has won over many Republican voters: As a political novice now seeking the GOP presidential nomination, he routinely places in the top three in the GOP polls, mostly due to support from evangelicals. And when it comes to the brain, he knows his stuff.
Take a gander at this remarkable video of Carson explaining how the brain functions when mounting a simple task.
Carson did this incredible riff during a speech in which he was defending creationism. He has long been a foe of evolution and a passionate advocate for the view that God created the world and all its creatures in six days.
What's intriguing about Carson is how he deploys his scientific knowledge to try to disprove the science of evolution. The point of his rap about the brain was to show that there is no way that such an intricate and amazing organ—look at those frontal lobes!—could have come into existence as the product of natural selection; it had to be the work of a higher and purposeful force. That is, God.
Carson, a devout member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, quietly soared to the top of the GOP pack due to his appeal to social conservatives, but he may be able to reach out to other GOP voters by demonstrating his in-depth understanding of the brain. If he were to repeat his performance about how the brain works at the next Republican debate, Carson would indubitably wow the crowd. Even Donald Trump might be left speechless (for a brief moment). Carson would make the other candidates look like pikers. (No doubt, some rapper would subsequently sync it to a rhythm track.) And his stock among Republicans would go higher.
Especially among those social conservatives who get the message.
Ben Carson, one of the top-tier contenders in the GOP presidential primary, has long been known as an ardent creationist. He has debated prominent scientists who defend evolution, and it's no secret that his advocacy of creationism springs from his deep faith in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Christian religion established in the mid-1800s. Creationism is a core belief for many Seventh-day Adventists, and one of the religion's founders, Ellen White, was one of the first purveyors of the notion that the Earth is merely 6,000 years old.
This week, Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, took some heat for his creationism when Buzzfeed reported that during a 2011 lecture that was part of a "Celebration of Creation," Carson decried the Big Bang theory and asserted that Darwin's theory of evolution was "encouraged" by Satan.
In that talk, Carson did take slight issue with White and those creationists who claim the Earth came into existence just several thousand years ago. He noted, "I am not a hard-and-fast person who says the Earth is only 6,000 years old." Yet Carson quickly added, "I do believe in the six-day creation." And he meant literally six days, not metaphorical days—that is, not days that might have lasted millions of years.
It says in the beginning God created the heaven and Earth. It doesn't say when he created them, except for in the beginning. So the Earth could have been here for a long time before he started creating things on it. But when he did start doing that, he made it very specifically clear to us the evening and the morning were the next day because he knew that people would come along and try to say that, "Oh, it was millions and millions of years." And then what else did he say in the very first chapter? That each thing brought forth after its own kind. Because he knew that people would come along and say, you know, this changed into that and this changed into that and this changed into that. So at the very beginning of the Bible, he puts that to rest.
So Carson may not be hard-and-fast on the when of creationism, but he is a biblical literalist on how long it took for the living Earth and all its inhabitants to come into being: six days.
Carson's belief is a personal matter, but his fundamentalist religious views may have a political consequence. If Carson, a political novice who has recently placed second behind Donald Trump in many polls due to the support of evangelical GOP voters, actually believes that Satan actively encourages evolution and other misguided notions, then does he consider his adversaries in political or scientific debates to be the useful idiots of the devil? If so, can he accept the idea of compromise or collaboration with those being encouraged and exploited by the Prince of Darkness? His belief in six-day creationism is not merely a curiosity. It is tied to a deeper belief that may profoundly skew how he sees his opponents and the workings of the political world.