In the movie "Being There," a gardener labeled Chauncey, played by Peter Sellers, manages like a live action Mr. Magoo to blindly stumble his way toward being a media sensation, key adviser and possibly a presidential candidate, without really knowing anything more than gardens and television shows. It's not too different a story from Dr. Carson's 2016 quest for the presidency. But will his lack of knowledge sink finally his bid for the White House?
Dr. Carson began his quixotic presidential aspirations after a prayer breakfast. Despite never having held any elected office, or any type of economic, military or political job, he decided it was time to seek the country's highest office. He's led a relatively insular life and a similar campaign style, a strange choice for one seeking a job which demands leadership and many personal interactions.
Those following debates know he's given answers that combine Chauncey's "homespun" style with a decided absence of specificity, but other candidates have been loathe to call him on his lack of knowledge on many issues related to the economy and foreign policy, so as not to anger his supporters who see him as a sort of Messiah, in the hopes that if he drops out, they can get those votes. None of them asked why Dr. Carson thought the national government collected property taxes, or why his great idea for dealing with Russia was to invite the Baltic countries to join NATO (they're already members).
The media foolishly picked on trivial errors from his biography and Donald Trump sought to falsely hint that Dr. Carson was like a child molester. Both attacks were both petty and unimportant, dodging the more relevant issue of Carson's woeful lack of experience.
Those concerns were laid bare before Americans in the wake of the Paris tragedy. Suddenly, foreign policy knowledge and plans for action became critical. And Carson's ignorance was suddenly exposed for all to see.
On Fox News on Sunday, Dr. Carson was unable to identify a single leader, or even a country, who might be an ally in the war on ISIS, even though he was asked several times for answers.
At least Palin knew Alaska and Russia were kinda close.
Even some of Dr. Carson's relatively thin bench of advisers admitted he doesn't really know much of anything about the Middle East or foreign policy for that matter. These advisers were criticized by Carson's campaign manager for not knowing much, which makes you wonder why they were his advisers in the first place. Donald Trump pounced on these reports, saying "That's pretty sad."
While Americans reacted in horror at what happened in Paris, Dr. Carson was trying to convince us he had "secret sources" that told him the Chinese were fighting in Syria.
For all that we like or dislike about presidents, from Truman to Nixon and Reagan to Obama, all had some degree of foreign policy knowledge or at least executive experience. Americans are rightly concerned that we're not sure this leading presidential candidate could find Syria on a map, or knows whether it borders Afghanistan.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com.