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September 11, 2015

Is Our Candidates Learning?

Via Allah's digest of Iowa polling news, this article from Matt K. Lewis, claiming that Ben Carson is, get this, learning.

That is a big thing if it's true. The fear I've expressed about Ben Carson, since he first started talking about a presidential run a year ago, was that he wouldn't learn political craft. Learning is a psychological skill more than an intellectual one -- one needs to accept that one has something to learn, after all. Many people are averse to this first step.

I feared that Carson, being extremely good at one thing would dismiss politics as beneath him and be determined to wing it -- hey, if I can separate conjoined twins joined at the skull, why do I need to think hard about this politics crap? It's beneath me.

Well, it may in fact be beneath his usual intellectual challenges, but it's the challenge he's set for himself at the moment. I never doubted he could learn this if he put his mind to it; my problem was, "Will he 'lower' himself to putting his mind to something so pedestrian (compared to neurosurgery) as politics?"

I personally haven't noticed him learning, but I'm not following him as closely as I should. He says he's learning, and Brett Baier seems to think he is too:

During Tuesday night's panel discussion on Fox News' "Special Report," Bret Baier recalled Carson’s past appearance on the panel: "He said, 'The thing about me is that I learn.' And, you know, you watch him on this campaign,” Baier continued, "…he has been learning. The sound bites have changed. His talking points have changed. His presentation has changed. And he has evolved."


Rather than blame the "lamestream" media for hyping his gaffes (and reveling in the attention and praise his controversial comments garnered on the Right), he has set about minimizing his mistakes. "I've learned how to phrase things in a way that people can actually hear what I’m saying," Carson recently told Howard Kurtz. "If you use certain words, it can be the most wonderful thing [but] they won’t hear it."

One advantage he has, maybe: Med students, I'm told, pretty much have to be very good at studying and cramming or they simply wash out. No one can get buy in med school on mere wit and bullshit. So maybe he's putting those old med-school-cramming muscles to work again.

On the other hand, there's Trump.

No, just kidding. Trump might be learning too, but in a Trumpish way (that is, denying he's learned anything at all because he was always awesome, but perhaps showing signs that, despite his denials, maybe he's learning).

My hopes for Trump's ability to learn have always been lower than they were for Carson, but he does seem to have grasped that maybe, just maybe, he needs to cool it on attacking every woman who challenges him in a personalized manner.

Oh he doesn't say that, of course. But he does seem to understand that his Firorina outbursts threatens his candidacy, even if (of course) he doesn't admit that.

He's doing awesome with women, he needs you to know. But he does offer an explanation for the Fiorina remarks, which is as a close as I think Trump can come to an apology.

Donald Trump says that his controversial comments about Carly Fiorina and other women were made "as an entertainer."

"It all goes hand-in-hand. And much of the -- many of the statements -- and, if you notice, I'm leading with women. This is nothing new because a colleague of yours mentioned something during the last debate. So this is nothing new. And yet I'm leading with women," Trump told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren Thursday night after she repeatedly questioned him about why he was commenting on Fiorina's physical appearance.

Trump continued: "Many of those comments are made as an entertainer, because I did 'The Apprentice.' It was one of the top shows on television. I decided not to do it again because I wanted to run for president. But some comments are made as an entertainer. And, as everybody said, as an entertainer [it] is a much different ballgame."

Yes, that was the kind of context he was in when he was speaking to supporters, with a Rolling Stone reporter present (and not hidden or anything). He was playing the comedian, trying to be entertaining.

But he doesn't seem to have accepted yet that the presidency is a position that requires some level of gravitas. He's changing that -- were he to win, we'd have a guy with the least gravitas ever -- but still, some gravitas is required. Maybe just a little bit, but some.

I don't know if he's really capable of learning on this point because this is now the third kinda-almost-the-same flare-up he's had with women who challenge him.

Howard Stern is a great radioman but he could not be elected president. Trump needs to decide if he's running for president, or for King of the Wack Pack.

Who knows. Hope always springs eternal that someone can learn something new. Even Donald J. Trump.

He did go to Wharton, I've heard.

On the other hand, I just can't see this guy ever doing any homework. Hugh Hewitt has told him, straight-up, he'll be asking about the leaders of various terrorist groups -- and the terrorist groups themselves -- at the debate, and even having been given this warning of a coming non-pop-quiz, I just don't expect him to bother to read about the Al Nusra Front.

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posted by Ace at 02:33 PM

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