Thursday, November 5, 2015

The problem with Ben Carson: "amateurs don't know what they don't know."

Here is the central point made by Steve Benen at MSNBC/The Maddow Blog (Nov. 3):

... amateurs don’t know what they don’t know. It’s not that Trump and Carson are insincere; rather, they simply lack the necessary understanding to appreciate the complexity of the office they’re unqualified to hold.

He continues with more on the problems exemplified by Carson's candidacy.

By some credible metrics, Ben Carson is the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Recent polling shows him leading not only at the national level, but also in the first caucus state.

The problem – one of them, anyway – is that Carson also seems manifestly unqualified to be president of the United States. He’s never sought or held elected office; he has no working understanding of government; and he’s never led anything larger than a medical department.

The retired right-wing neurosurgeon is aware of these concerns and, late last week, offered a striking response: [He tweeted:] "It is important to remember that amateurs built the Ark and it was the professionals that built the Titanic."

You could dismiss Carson's response as another witless utterance (and Carson has a whole library of them). But it reinforces Benen's point. Carson, as a political and governmental amateur, is not suited for the office of President.

The counter to Carson's tweet is simple:

But Vox’s Timothy B. Lee had a good piece the other day noting the flaw in Carson’s reasoning.

[N]o one would want an amateur doctor to do brain surgery on them – they’d want a highly trained professional like Ben Carson. Most jobs doing scientific research require a PhD, because it takes years of study to master the scientific state of the art. And it’s a good thing that, generally speaking, we expect politicians to have some previous experience in government – or related fields – before elevating them to the highest office in the land. […]

By way of a comparative example, Lee notes that Carly Fiorina managed a large complex company

... people do need relevant experience. Carly Fiorina, for example, spent six years managing one of the nation's largest companies — a job with many similarities to the presidency — and has spent the years since then advising the CIA. And it's clear from interviews that she's done her homework, mastering many of the complex policy issues she'd be called on to deal with as president.

Like Carson, at one point in my academic career I chaired an academic department. Unlike Carson, I do not believe the experience endowed me with the qualities necessary to be President of the United States. And, unlike Carson, I don't believe that the application of common sense would be an adequate substitute for relevant experience.

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