And, of course, this weekend, Carson on NBC's "Meet the Press" compared women who have had abortions to slave owners while explaining his support for an end to almost all legal abortion.
And we all know that this list could go on. Someone was clearly paying attention in ninth grade during that unit on metaphors and similes. But he might have missed the follow-up on exercising real prudence when drawing even the most remote comparisons between two of the worst events in human history and, well, almost anything. This, almost any ninth-grade English teacher would tell you, is powerful language. It should be used infrequently and with extreme care.
My colleague Chris Cillizza wrote Friday about Carson's incredible political rise despite the most unlikely of GOP front-runner résumés. And there is no doubt that Carson's ideas and his penchant for Nazi, Holocaust, eugenics and American slavery references have helped to draw political attention to the retired neurosurgeon previously best known for performing groundbreaking surgeries. Carson's outrageous comparisons have been a key element in demonstrating his "outsider," non-politician bonafides in places where GOP voters like that sort of thing.
It is also true that the comparison between Obamacare and slavery helped to get Carson a gig on the network that conservatives love, Fox News. Now, those same ideas are helping to drive his run for the White House.
We are aware that some Carson supporters would insist that his big, bold comparisons have little to do with their plans to vote for him. Some are simply impressed by Carson's first-career achievements in neurosurgery and are confident that he can bring the same talent to the political theater. Others seem particularly fond of Carson's limited set of policy prescriptions, long list of social proscriptions and moral corrections for nearly all of what ails the nation.
Many GOP voters, as Cillizza noted, just plain agree with Carson's ideas. These are the voters who have been longing for someone to draw the kind of direct comparisons between Hitler and gun-control advocates, and Obama and pro-choice women and abortion and slavery, and so on and so forth for a very long time. Until now, their ideas have been largely confined to reader comment sections and hard-to-find chat rooms and private dinners with friends.
Here's what is certain: There are lots of ways to shoot to the top of the polls. There are lots of ways to attract voters, to win elections, even gain immense power. Not all of them are good for candidates, good for the country or good for democracy. And, at the very least, Carson's comments aren't doing much to expand the pool of people drawn to the GOP.
Carson's comparisons should cease, and not just because they are insensitive to the real human suffering that the Nazis and American slavery caused. They should stop because they make him sound as if he hangs out with people who might not wear tin-foil hats but have contemplated them, while inside their fully stocked Y2K bunkers and reading e-mails sent from AOL.com accounts.
If nothing else, politically, Carson should at least contemplate some severe limits on their use because they turn real struggles — such as the health and welfare of the 40 million Americans uninsured before Obamcare — into little more than political props. The very real needs of the uninsured and the soaring health-care cost the remainder of Americans pay get pushed out of the political spotlight, as do potential policy solutions. Just look at what happened this weekend.
In his "Meet the Press" interview, Carson laid out his ideas for the replacement of Medicare with health savings accounts that begin at birth, carry balances transferable to relatives and a national need to purchase catastrophic illness or injury insurance. Even if voters do not agree with Carson's ideas, this is the information they need. This is where the presidential race should sit. What are your ideas to fix what's wrong and bolster what's right?
Instead, most of what has been said and written about Carson in the hours since that "Meet the Press" interview aired has been about slave owners and women who have abortions. And we're also going to point out here that none of what Carson said or suggested regarding the need for policies banning almost all legal abortions would seem to address the primary reasons that women have consistently told reproductive researchers since at least the 1980s that they actually have abortions.
Here's a very big and clear pattern that seems to have intensified over time according to the pro-abortion-rights research organization, the Guttmacher Institute: poverty and dire economic strain.
Elected officials, and certainly presidents, are not put in office simply to opine, to inflame or to shake a moralist's finger on a global stage. They are there to make and drive policy, to craft and create needed reforms.
Carson's comparisons and the outsize attention that he is, by now, aware that they receive are not presidential and are unlikely to get him elected to that office.
At this rate, it's not hard to imagine how a Carson White House would require a special team of special assistants to the president who have to go around the world offering artful apologies and alternative explanations for President Carson's choices of words. More of his unbridled metaphors might well make foreign relations hard and domestic policymaking somehow even more divorced from the reality of Americans' lives than it appears to be right now.