Hit the Brakes on the Ben Carson Story

I’ve struck through the original piece here.

It is looking more and more like the details of Ben Carson’s West Point story are more nuanced.

In 2013, he said he was offered a scholarship to West Point. The Politico story centers on Carson claiming he “applied and was accepted.”

It is true, Carson never applied and was never accepted to West Point.

The Politico’s representation of that is demonstrably false and is not something Carson claimed.

However, Carson has said several times he was offered a scholarship to West Point. That also appears to be not true, but Carson has some wiggle room here.

Carson says this came up in a meeting with General Westmoreland. It is possible that Carson simply misunderstood Westmoreland.

Here is this in the Politico story from Carson’s campaign manager:

“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his ROTC Supervisors,” Bennett added. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in ROTC. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”

Carson could have taken that as “offered a scholarship,” which is not the case, but he could have interpreted that way.

In other words, Carson has more wiggle room on this story than the Politico suggested and Carson’s book does not claim he “applied and was accepted” to West Point.

Politics is jujitsu. Use a candidate’s biggest strength as his weakness. Everybody loves Ben Carson. He’s a nice guy. He’s likable. He is trustworthy. That is exactly where all the attacks on Carson are going to go and the media just drew serious blood.

Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted that a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated: his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The academy has occupied a central place in Carson’s tale for years. According to a story told in Carson’s book, “Gifted Hands,” the then-17 year old was introduced in 1969 to Gen. William Westmoreland, who had just ended his command of U.S. forces in Vietnam, and the two dined together. That meeting, according to Carson’s telling, was followed by a “full scholarship” to the military academy.

West Point, however, has no record of Carson applying, much less being extended admission.

Carson’s life story has been a central point of his appeal and the West Point story has been part of that appeal. If the other campaigns and the media can go after Carson on trust, his campaign is finished. His support levels are very high, but his support is also very, very soft. People are supporting Carson because they are not enamored with the rest of the field, but they are not wedded to him.

As CNN goes after the knifing story and now the Carson campaign is admitting this fabrication, we’re about to see a novice politician with a less than highly skilled campaign begin to head into a storm the candidate himself created.

Now, remember this too — Carson’s support went up because Trump supporters got burned out on Trump and Fiorina faded. In other words, those voters are not likely to go back to Trump. They’re more likely to go to Cruz and Rubio, which continues the dynamic shift in the race to those two men as front runners.