As might have been predicted, the largely discredited Politico story about Ben Carson’s “scholarship offer” from West Point has caused the media to question pretty much all aspects of this story. The next shoe to drop has been the revelation that General Westmoreland was not in Detroit in the days around Memorial Day in 1969. This sounds like a pretty damning piece of information, but it turns out that Westmoreland was in Detroit in February of 1969 for a dinner honoring a Congressional medal of honor recipient. It also turns out that one of the stories he relates in his book about a course at Yale concerns a course that did not exist, at least by the name he gave it.
You all are of course free to give whatever weight you would like to these revelations, including to doubt that the media sources in question even have their basic facts right. Certainly we all got burned by Politico on Friday. I rather suspect, however, that these latest revelations are true, but they are not as troublesome to me as they doubtless will be to some (who are, frankly, pre-disposed to oppose Carson anyway).
As it so happens, my oldest sister (who is a very talented writer – more so than I am, for sure) is writing a book that is set to be published this fall that concerns her diagnosis with breast cancer. As she has been compiling this book, she has texted my other sister and I on numerous occasions trying to pinpoint with much accuracy as possible when certain events (surrounding a traumatic event that happened less than 15 years ago) occurred. It has been shocking to me during the course of responding to these text messages how frequently I am not able to say with certainty even what year some of these events occurred – or even sometimes within what two or three year block they occurred.
For instance, sometimes I cannot even tell her for certain whether given events occurred when I was living in Arkansas (a period that spanned 2002-2005), or whether I was in law school in Nashville (a period that spanned 2005-2008). I’ve been further surprised at the number of times we have come up with completely contradictory recollections of time frames for events that we have no real objective way to confirm exactly when they occurred – even though they occurred relatively recently and concerned members of our immediate family.
In other words, I’m less than surprised that Carson may have mistaken a February 1969 meeting for a May 1969 meeting, during the course of writing a book that was published in 1990. I’m summarily unconvinced that the info dug up by the Detroit News indicates that Carson never met with Westmoreland at all. I’m likewise less than surprised that he got the name of a college course wrong; I myself finished my bachelor’s degree ten short years ago and I can’t recall the name of a singe one of my undergraduate courses. Seriously, not even one, and most people who know me can attest that I have a much better than average memory. If pressed, I would probably be able to make up a reasonably convincing sounding title for the classes, but wouldn’t be able to say with accuracy that they were correct.
This is doubly true for events that I have no paper record to check against, such as when the banquet Carson mentioned occurred, etc. etc.
So while these newest revelations will give Carson’s detractors some new ammunition to play with, and the campaign will need to scramble to answer them, I find them not very disturbing, even if true.