Ben Carson for veep?
If it wasn’t clear prior to Wednesday night that none of Donald J. Trump’s fellow 2024 Republican presidential primary candidates were suitable for -- or were being considered for -- runaway race frontrunner Trump’s upcoming (When? We don’t know) announcement regarding his selection for vice president of his second administration, assuming there is one, the GOP’s fourth debate demonstrated that there would be much better fits for the all-important slot than those present on stage.
I touched on it in my debate review yesterday, so there’s no need to rehash as to why the 2024 also-rans wouldn’t cut it here. Needless to say, Trump is first and foremost searching for someone who is loyal to him, will stand out in just the right ways and, as always, can do the job, primarily the task of being a friend to Trump when no one else is inclined to do so. Mike Pence appeared to be the perfect man for the task – until he wasn’t. De facto nominee Trump needs someone to get it right this time.
For his part, Trump keeps his own counsel on this and all other matters, but here’s betting he’ll settle for someone who’s ideologically and temperamentally compatible and has been from the outset – the initiation of his presidential mission back in mid-2015. There weren’t many Trump bandwagon joiners back then, of course, but still there were credible individuals who avoided the “easy target” jabs at the polling frontrunner, a man who re-defined what it meant to be a successful political outsider.
Seeing Megyn Kelly moderating the debate the other night reminded this observer that, in the summer and fall of 2015, the sizable field of Republican hopefuls largely dismissed the possibility that someone like Donald Trump could win – not only the party nomination, but also carry a large enough swatch of American voters to send him to the White House. A few of the doubters – like establishment favorite Jeb Bush – were openly disrespectful to Trump, rejecting not only his background but also his ideas.
But it should also be pointed out that the 2016 group contained several candidates generally accepted as “outsiders”. It wasn’t just Trump. In addition to the career real estate developer and reality TV star, there was pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson (who had gained fame for his truth-to-power speech in front of Barack Obama at the 2013 National Prayer breakfast), Carly Fiorina (successful business CEO who’d never held political office before) and Ted Cruz. The Texas senator was the only “insider” who held an elected position, but he spoke as a boat-rocking, message carrying system disruptor, just like the others.
As we’re reaching the end of 2023 and the polling turns into “official” votes next month, there will be more commentary on who Trump should tap for his vice president. One name emerged recently that could surprise some folks. In a story titled “Doctor, Secretary…Vice President? (This ticket is as close to perfect as you can get)”, Eric Lendrum wrote at American Greatness earlier this week:
“Perhaps most crucially of all, Dr. Carson has proven almost impossible to hate, even for the Left. Despite numerous successful smears of other Republican presidential candidates, as well as other members of Trump’s Cabinet, none of their attempts to attack Carson have successfully landed. It could be due to his warm and polite nature, or it could be due to his incredible life story, which is the embodiment of the American Dream and a true ‘rags to riches’ journey...
“[T]he notion that Dr. Carson could draw in more black voters is a strong reason in support for choosing him, but it certainly needn’t be the only reason. Even if, just as in 2020, such efforts are ultimately not successful, Carson still brings far more to the table than just about any other potential running mate...
“No one is perfect, especially not in the world of politics. There are other top-tier contenders for President Trump’s running mate, but whether by virtue of already running in another race, or being from the same state as Trump and thus constitutionally ineligible, many other ‘perfect’ choices will always be just out of reach.”
“Just out of reach.” It reminded me of a line from the 2022 movie Elvis, when Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks) said (paraphrasing) to the frustrated rock legend near the end of the film, “The truth about the Rock of Eternity -- it is forever just beyond our reach.” So much for striving for perfection. There will always be something in the way and people working against you.
Which makes Lendrum’s promotion of Ben Carson for Trump’s 2024 running mate all the more intriguing. In his piece, Lendrum pointed out that it was Carson, about eight years ago this time, who temporarily supplanted Trump for the polling lead in the 2016 Republican race. You may recall Carson’s rise began after a particularly effective debate performance in September (2015), which got people thinking that the brainy, mild-speaking doctor could supply the right combination of life experience, cognitive ability and personal gravity to take over the White House from Barack Obama. It was at that moment (or weeks’ worth of moments) that the establishment media took their complete slime focus off of Trump and redirected it at Carson, just long enough to dredge up “anger issues from his youth” and cast doubt in voters’ minds about Ben’s mental stability. Carson’s polling lead subsequently evaporated, never to reappear. Carson made a respectable but distant fourth place finish in Iowa (behind Ted Cruz, Trump and Marco Rubio, all of whom ended up within a couple points of each other), but there was little prospect for regaining the lost mojo from his “surge”. American voters are fickle. That’s not news to anyone.
Carson stayed in the race until the day after Super Tuesday and immediately endorsed Trump upon exiting the GOP field. Carson’s nod towards Trump came as a bit of a surprise, since myself and many other Ted Cruz supporters figured that the Texan’s proven social and cultural conservatism was a better match for the traditional Carson to get behind. But clearly, Carson was impressed by Trump’s boldness and sincerity, and Trump was just as enthralled with Carson’s forthrightness. When Trump won the presidency, he brought Ben into his administration as HUD secretary.
There’s little doubt that if Trump announced Carson was the one for 2024 it would generate more than its share of immediate buzz. The establishment media would undoubtedly dwell on Carson’s race and religion, likely arguing that the only reason Trump chose someone so unschooled in the ways of Washington was because of Ben’s minority status. Carson’s conservative Seventh Day Adventist faith would also receive another round of examination.
Lendrum made the case that Trump’s electing to choose a black man for his running mate could attract additional support for the GOP ticket from the African-American community, particularly black men, greater percentages of which have already signaled an openness to dumping the pandering Democrat party and senile Joe Biden. Such a splintering of one of the Democrats’ most loyal constituencies would be devastating for Biden’s – or any other Democrat’s – chances of winning.
The American Greatness author also rejected the widely circulated notion that Trump is primarily concentrating on women for possible running mates, mentioning South Dakota governor Kristi Noem in particular. Myself and others have agreed that Trump selecting a woman would be advantageous for him in certain ways, and Noem makes a lot of sense since she’s got experience as a governor and in Congress, as well as possessing solid conservative bona fides.
And she’s relatively young (just turned 52). Ben Carson is 72, five years younger than Trump.
I believe that Trump, if indeed the stars have aligned for another presidential run, should weigh all of these factors in his second round of veep vetting. Poring over the qualifications of potential nominees is typically done within the campaign with a prominent public figure leading the sifting. I can’t imagine Trump possesses the patience for the way things have always been done in top-level politics, and will likely prefer to do much of the vetting and interviewing himself. If the rumors are true, Trump demands loyalty and deference to the agenda, not just surface characteristics and chromosomes.
Further, it seems certain that Trump will focus on the days and weeks after the 2020 election and home-in on reactions to the January 6, 2021 melee for special inspection. This would separate the proverbial men from the boys and demonstrate who kept their head when things were the most trying and unsure. That’s when many of Trump’s former friends and backers fell over themselves to make the world believe they weren’t part of the mindset that “denied” an election. Human beings are what they are, and swamp creatures, more than anyone else, don’t relish being lumped in with the losing side and “intolerant” crowd who reside opposite of the establishment media’s accepted narrative. But when things were at their worst, who stood by the president when he was virtually friendless?
When the rest of the world walked out, did Ben Carson – or any of the other leading veep contenders – walk in?
Democrats, meanwhile, are confronted with a different type of dilemma, namely how to get rid of their presidential ticket without dividing the party in half and infuriating their most loyal voters. Senile Joe Biden is a failure and a drag on the Democrat party, but what options do Democrats have other than to bow to Biden’s intentions to run? And Kamala Harris is a dunce – but she can’t be disposed of because she’s a black woman.
Speculation regarding possible running mates is part of the process and generally harmless, as we’re more likely than not going to be surprised (somewhat) by who Trump actually picks to join him on his MAGA 2.0 journey. Republicans have a nice problem – they have a deep bench of good candidates who aren’t defined solely by their race or gender. Something more to look forward to in 2024.
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