Chauncey Carson(er)

AP
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A lot of conservatives are now deciding that Carson is innocent of fabricating an admission to West Point. But the basis of his exoneration is apparently that Carson is so totally ignorant of how tuition, the service academies and apparently just life in general work that he may have claimed something that is demonstrably false but not known it. Erick Erickson first wrote a post saying the Carson was toast. But he then struck that post and replaced it with another basically exonerating him. To be fair to Erickson, unlike some others, he’s not exactly exonerating Carson but saying that he has “more wiggle room on this story than the Politico suggested.”

That may barely be true. But ‘wiggle room’ is the key point. In his biography Carson said he turned down the offer of a scholarship at West Point and in a recent Facebook chat said he’d turned down an offer of admission to West Point. To go down to the exact language, Carson is asked “if it was true that I was offered a slot at West Point after high school. Bill, that is true. I was the highest student ROTC member in Detroit and was thrilled to get an offer from West Point.”

Now, the pro-Carson push back is based on what Carson claims was a banquet where he met with General William Westmoreland 1969. The idea seems to be that at the banquet Westmoreland or some people from West Point said something to the effect of ‘You’ve got great grades, you’re an impressive young man, you should or could go to West Point, etc.’ That is not at all implausible since Carson was a young African-American man at the top of his ROTC class at the height of the Vietnam War. According to Carson’s campaign manager, the West Point folks at the banquet, “told him they could him him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”

Now, there’s a separate point that you can’t get “scholarship” because West Point doesn’t charge tuition. You commit to being in the Army after your graduation. In effect, you’re already in the Army. But setting that aside, the best explanation of Carson’s story is that representatives from West Point said they could help him getting an appointment to West Point and he interpreted this as getting an offer of admission or a “scholarship”.

One might imagine that 18 year Carson didn’t grasp the distinction. Maybe. But it’s basically impossible to believe that the sixty-something Ben Carson telling people this on Facebook a couple months didn’t realize that, by any reasonable standard, he was saying he was offered admission to West Point and turned it down.

Carson’s apparent cluelessness is now put forward as his saving grace.

I don’t think Carson is that clueless. This sounds to me like an extreme exaggeration – a fib – that got embellished and embellished over the years until it just became part of Carson’s rags to riches narrative.

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