Carson Toast? We Called It On Saturday

CarsonToast On Friday, I was at the Statehouse for the last day of filing, when the remainders and oddballs put their names on the ballot because they can. Curiously, Dr Ben Carson also chose “Remainder Day” for filing, and didn’t do himself any favors with the press corps, either.

On Saturday’s GrokTALK! we noted that recent polls were indicating Carson had peaked, and discussed events at the Statehouse. The latest news out of Iowa also does not bode well for Carson, as Sunday’s story from reports.

Let me say right here that Dr Carson is one of the most decent, accomplished, intelligent, all-round good guys in the country. The problem is that, under the spotlight, he tends to dream up answers to questions on the fly – because he thinks he’s smart enough to do that, and that is when we get statements which conservatives find jarring, and people interested in national security find disturbing.

Dreaming up answers on the fly tends to lead to debacles like “We should have a database on EVERYBODY” or “The Department of Education should implement virtual classrooms”, or to policy positions which the Club For Growth calls “all over the map”.

Two examples I personally recorded:
[youtube] [youtube]

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Dr Carson when he states something blindingly obvious, but not PC, like we can’t have a president who obeys Sharia law because it’s incompatible with the Constitution, and then stands firm when the “Democrats with bylines” act like it’s an outrage.

The other problem which becomes apparent over time is that Carson doesn’t have a great memory for things outside his area of expertise, in fact, he seems to have a case of “CRS” (Can’t Remember Supporters, or Can’t Remember Stories, or Can’t Remember Sh–!).

Can’t Remember Supporters – this might not matter nationally, but it matters a LOT in states like New Hampshire and Iowa, where the candidate meets the key supporters of his campaign multiple times, and people could feel slighted. Our personal experience, with Mar-Mar having organized four events for Carson, and attended several more, is that he really can’t remember people, and a campaign worker recently confirmed that it hasn’t improved.

Can’t remember stories – when questioned about things he has said or done in the past, Carson often gives inconsistent answers, or appears to be tripped up by questions. His Business Manager, Armstrong Williams, also tends to gloss over things which come back to bite them later.

Look, I don’t care if his book *might* be construed to say he applied to West Point, even though he was clear that General Westmoreland said that he *could* get Carson in, and Carson was clear that he did not pursue West Point because he wanted to study medicine. As Rush Limbaugh rightly pointed out, these were egregiously fabricated attacks by worthless hacks at Politico and elsewhere.

MannatechLogo What has concerned me more over the long term, over and above the off the cuff solutions, has been the story of his involvement with nutraceutical manufacturer, Mannatech of Texas. Manntech’s founder, Sam Caster, had a checkered history already when he founded Mannatech to profit from the Clinton-Era deregulation of nutritional supplements. By utilizing a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) salesforce of “independent” distributors, Mannatech was able to remain at arm’s length from some of the outrageous claims that their product cured diseases from A-Z.

Mannatech was sued for misleading advertising, prosecuted by Texas AG, Greg Abbott, in 2007, and was forced to settle for a large sum. In addition, researchers in the Field of glycobiology published papers panning Mannatech’s use of the term “glyconutrient” and their attempts to link their product to valid research in the field of glycobiology. What is more, one of those researchers (Ronald Schnaar) was at Johns Hopkins, where Carson practiced neurosurgery.

I provide this background information to make it clear that there was abundant evidence that Mannatech was not a good name with which to be associated. Nonetheless, Carson sold his good name in support of Manatech’s activities on multiple occasions between 2004 and 2014, making paid speeches to rally the sales force and testify about the product, recording interviews which were on the company website until the potential embarrassment became so obvious that Carson’s team requested they be removed.

Note, also, that end date is well past his 15 minutes of fame at the National Prayer Breakfast, and well into the “Run, Ben, Run” hype that eventually got him into the race. At that time, Carson recorded a Brain Health special for PBS, sponsored by a Mannatech distributor, and specifically mentioning the benefits of glyconutrients, which is a term invented by Mannatech, and guaranteed to bring them up during a search.

In case you think these were mere motivational speeches, I provide the following examples – on the left via WSJ at a Mannatech conference, and on the right from a Mannatech promo:

So, in a speech to Mannatech personnel and distributors in 2011, Carson claimed that Mannatech had paid part of the $2.5M cost of setting up an endowed chair in his name at John’s Hopkins, then later, when it was inconvenient to acknowledge the tie, both Mannatech and Carson denied there was a “business” relationship, or that Mannatech contributed. Which is more likely to be accurate? His speech in 2011 when it was fresh(er) in his mind, or denials issued in 2015?

Further, in that recorded piece, used as a promo by Mannatech Distributors, Carson goes out of his way to claim that there is a scientific basis for the health benefits of Mannatech’s products, and how much they have helped him personally.

At the very least, this shows a level of naivete which is worrying.