Live from La Farine: As Daniel Drezner tweets:

Even if [Ben Carson's campaign] is a giant marketing scam, it's a giant marketing scam that's overtaking Trump's giant marketing scam.

What can I say?

I remember back in 2000 being told: "Of course George W. Bush is not going to govern the country. He is not qualified. But people who are qualified to run the country are not good at being heads of state who reassure the American people. And they are very very not good at combining that with the partisan edge needed to get the activists to run the voter turnout operation.

"You Democrats have been lucky with Bill Clinton. But he is one in a million. George W. Bush is our new Ronald Reagan--our head of state candidate. And do not worry: the government will be in good hands--the permanent government of George Shultz, James Baker, Martin Feldstein, Howard Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and company are professional, and up to the task."

Now, I think, we see the ruins of that strategy. And even if Bill Clinton is one in a million, there are 320 of him or her in this country, of whom at least 80 are Republicans...

Jonathan Chait: Is Ben Carson Running for President?: "On February 7, 2013, Ben Carson appeared at a National Prayer Breakfast...

...where he visibly annoyed President Obama by delivering a right-wing speech denouncing Obamacare and cultural liberalism, and calling for a flat tax based on the biblical tithe. Conservatives, still devastated by Obama’s reelection, took delight in the appearance on the scene of a surprising new presidential antagonist.... The Wall Street Journal celebrated Carson’s remarks in a short editorial, headlined ‘Ben Carson for President.’ The headline was obviously hyperbolic.... But now Carson actually is running for president. Or is he? It is hard to tell. Conservative politics are so closely intermingled with a lucrative entertainment complex that it is frequently impossible to distinguish between a political project (that is, something designed to result in policy change) and a money-making venture. Declaring yourself a presidential candidate gives you access to millions of dollars' worth of free media attention that can build a valuable brand....

Carson... has never run for elected office... has never managed a large organization... has not worked in and around public policy... lacks a competent grasp of issues. His stance on health care... is gibberish. He mostly thrills audiences by scoffing at evolution and insisting Muslims be barred from the presidency, stances he cannot even defend coherently. It is possible that Carson has come to genuinely believe that he is qualified to serve as president. (As a follower of the conspiracy theorist W. Cleon Skousen, Carson seems to subscribe in earnest to a series of completely fantastical beliefs.) It is also possible that Carson is being manipulated by staffers who stand to profit.... But the most likely explanation for his behavior is that Carson himself is in this thing to make a lot of money.

Carson is doing... things... puzzling for a... campaign, but... logical for... brand-building... taking weeks... to go on a book tour... 69 percent of his fund-raising totals are spent on more fund-raising.... a massive phone-spamming operation... not a good way to get elected president, but... a good way to build a massive list of supporters that can later be monetized.... Armstrong Williams... is ‘business manager,’ as opposed to ‘campaign manager.’...

It is a fallacy to imagine that a kook cannot also be a scammer. There is a long tradition of cult leaders, televangelists, and other snake-oil salesmen who were both. Carson’s relationship with Mannatech, a medical-supplement operator that uses misleading claims to exploit Christian customers, may provide the most revealing window into his methodology. Consider the utterly calm and putatively genuine way in which Carson flatly denied a question at the last debate about his business relationship with Mannatech:

If you have the facts in mind — Carson  maintained an extensive relationship with the company — when you watch this answer, his unflinching dishonesty has a chilling quality. He is a perfect con artist. And his history with Mannatech seems to serve as a precursor to his current enterprise. Carson used his inspiring story to pitch credulous (overwhelmingly Christian) customers. Carson has simply moved on to a bigger stage and cut out the middleman. The old scam was using the Ben Carson brand to pitch Mannatech. The new scam is pitching Ben Carson.


Hopefully Worth Reading:

(We will see how Amazon's recommendation engine does over time. Complaints and mockery screen shots to: delong@econ.berkeley.edu.)

Comments