06 November 2015
Crybaby Carson and the politics of vetting
I caught a little this morning of Dr. Ben Carson's pathetic exchange with a CNN reporter who had dared question the veracity of the Republican front-runner's autobiography. Echoing the consensus tone of all the Republicans following last week's CNBC debate, Carson griped that there are important issues to discuss -- that is, there are issues he wants to discuss -- while the terrible mainstream media wants to bring up trivial stuff. Actually he and any other candidate is within his rights to criticize the quality of the questions reporters ask, so long as he doesn't seek to dictate the questions they should ask. But none of the Republicans are criticizing the triviality of journalism in general. The problem, as they see it, isn't that reporters are banal but -- of course! -- that they are biased. What was pathetic about Carson's chat was his claim that Barack Obama never got the vetting from the mainstream media that Carson himself is getting. The reporter moved quickly to defend herself and her profession, reminding him that they'd gone through Senator Obama's writings with a fine-tooth comb and had found that he had created composite characters for different episodes of his life. In response to this reminder, Carson laughed with blatant contempt. There's really no way for journalists to convince Republicans that they properly vetted Obama, because it's an article of GOP faith that, had Obama been properly vetted, he never would have been elected. Since Obama has been elected twice, it's self-evident to Republicans that he was never vetted properly, and it's a small leap from there to conspiracy theory. Since Obama's faults are screamingly obvious to Republicans, and have been since 2008, he can only have been elected through a willful refusal of the media to vet him properly. Yet Obama's faults, real and supposed, are well-known, because they actually have been well-publicized, to everybody. You could not watch news -- not Fox News, but news -- without hearing about skeletons in Obama's closet, from Rev. Wright to Bill Ayers, and while Fox may claim to have led the way, it cannot be argued that the other news channels refused to talk about these matters. If vetting means that potentially troubling issues with candidates are brought to light, then Obama was quite thoroughly vetted, at least as far as Republicans are concerned. They heard enough about him to know they never wanted him in the White House. They like to blame his occupancy of that building today to both the biased mainstream media and the "low-information voters" on which all Democrats depend. If anyone failed to vet Obama to Republicans' satisfaction, it's these voters, but it cannot be claimed that they didn't hear the same things about Obama that Republicans heard. In short, the Republican argument that Obama wasn't properly vetted, or that the media refused to vet him, is a lie, and that makes Dr. Carson a liar. But let's be more specific: the Republican argument -- the argument that the details that make him abhorrent to them should have discredited him generally if properly publicized -- is a lie. On the other hand, there are probably many self-styled progressives who feel, after seven years of the Obama presidency, that he may not have been as thoroughly vetted to their satisfaction as he could have been. They only have themselves to blame, though, because we know their vetting process stopped as soon as he secured the Democratic line, and the Democratic party hasn't been properly vetted by true progressives in a very long time.