On a Friday CNBC interview with John Harwood, retired neurosurgeon and GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson doubled down by repeating his theme that President Barack Obama reminded him of a psychopath. Harwood asked Carson:
Obama you referred to him as a psychopath. What did you mean by that?
Carson corrected Harwood, replying:
I said he reminds you of a psychopath.
To Carson that is an important clarification. Ben Carson isn’t saying unequivocally that Obama is a psychopath, just that he reminds him of a psychopath, as if that small semantic distinction somehow renders the comparison less inflammatory.
When Harwood asked him to describe what he meant, Carson continued:
Because they [psychopaths] tend to be extremely smooth– charming people who can tell a lie to your face with complete– looks like sincerity, even though they know it’s a lie.
Carson elaborated further by accusing President Obama of lying about the unemployment rate:
Well, I think he knows full well that the unemployment rate is not 5.5%. He knows that. And he knows that people who are not well-informed will swallow it hook, line, and sinker, even though they are sitting there in the city and can’t find a job.
In Carson’s mind, the analysts at the U.S. Labor Department are cooking the books on behalf of a U.S. President who reminds him of a psychopath. The extent of Carson’s delusion is mind-boggling but unsurprising in the current polarized political environment.
Republicans no longer appear content to simply disagree with Democrats on policy. Instead, they seem to find it necessary to demonize President Obama and other Democrats, who are now viewed not as mere political adversaries, but rather as enemies. For this reason, aspiring Republican politicians engage in demonizing rhetoric, hoping to arouse and to capitalize upon the anti-Obama rage of GOP voters.
While such inflammatory rhetoric may play well in Republican primaries, it is likely to alienate the moderate and Independent voters that Republicans need to capture to win a general election. When Americans think of psychopaths, they are reminded of men like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh or Aurora Theater shooter James Holmes.
Comparing President Obama to a psychopath is not only morally repugnant, but it is also a politically dubious strategy as well. When Ben Carson draws the comparison, it is not likely to stick because it is so absurd. Even if it does stick, Carson risks the ironic possibility that voters may decide he reminds them more of a psychopath than President Obama does.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.