“Being there” with Carson the gardener

by Jim Longworth

Last week something really surprising happened. Dr. Ben Carson, the Neurosurgeon turned GOP presidential candidate, overtook Donald Trump in a CBS News poll by a margin of 26 percent to 22 percent. Not so surprising, is that Dr. Carson as the new frontrunner, has come under much more scrutiny and criticism than ever before. I particularly liked the comments by several bloggers who compared Carson to Chance the Gardener, a pitifully naive character played by Peter Sellers in the 1979 film, “Being There”.

In the movie, Chance’s employer dies, leaving the simple-minded gardener to wander aimlessly through the streets of Washington D.C. where he is struck by a limo belonging to Ben, a billionaire political kingmaker a la the Koch brothers. Chance is taken to Ben’s mansion to recuperate where everyone thinks his name is Chauncey Gardener. One thing leads to another and when Ben invites his friend the President of the United States over for a visit, Chauncey is mistaken for a trusted political advisor. In one scene, the President asks Chauncey what he should do about an economic policy under consideration. Chance’s idiotic garden-speak is misinterpreted as some sort of brilliant metaphor.

President: Do you think we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?

Chance: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well, and all WILL be well in the garden. In a garden, growth has its seasons. First comes Spring and Summer, but then we have Fall and Winter. And then we get Spring and Summer again.

Ben: I think what our insightful friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.

Chance: Yes, there will be growth in the Spring.

President: I admire your good common sense. That’s what we lack on Capitol Hill.

Chance soon becomes the talk of the town, and eventual successor to Ben’s empire.

The film ends at Ben’s funeral where powerful mourners decide to run Chauncey for President in the next election.

Suddenly “Being There” has become relevant again, especially to those of us who have taken time to read and re-read the plethora of simple-minded statements made by Ben Carson. What’s scary, though, is that Crazy Carson’s ideas are resonating with millions of uneducated and uninformed voters. Kanye West, for example, recently called Carson, “The most brilliant guy.” It’s Chauncey Gardener all over again.

Make no mistake. Just because someone speaks softly and slowly, doesn’t make what comes out of his mouth brilliant. Like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain before him, Carson has become the Republican’s leading looney for this election cycle.

Need proof? Then just take a look at some of Dr. Ben’s more notable nuggets.

Homosexuality as a Choice Carson told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that homosexuality is a choice “because a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay.”

Anarchy Carson told Fox’s Chris Wallace if we don’t begin to deal with our problems now, that there might not be an election in 2016 because of widespread anarchy.

Affordable Care Act At the 2013 Values Voters Summit, Carson said, “You know Obamacare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”

Same Sex Marriage Carson told Fox’s Sean Hannity that marriage is between a man and a woman, adding, “It’s a well established fundamental pillar of society, and no group, be they gays, or people who believe in bestiality… they don’t get to change the definition.”

Nazis Carson has implied on numerous occasions that Democrats and anyone who votes for Obama can be compared to Nazis. According to, Carson once said, “Most of the people in Nazi Germany did not believe in what Hitler was doing, but did they speak up? Did they stand up for what they believe in? They did not, and you see what happened.” Carson has also said that “the likelihood of Holocaust would have been greatly diminished if the people of Germany had been armed.” So let me get this straight. If German Jews had each been armed with a rifle, and spoke their beliefs, they could have defeated Hitler’s army. Makes perfect sense.

Mass Shootings Carson recently told CBS News that lives would have been saved if students at Umpqua Community College had been armed. Said Carson, “The shooter can only shoot one person at a time. He cannot shoot a whole group of people…I would not just stand there and let him shoot me.” Interesting that Carson is a gun expert, yet obviously hasn’t heard of magazines with multiple rounds of ammo. And I suppose every student who carries a gun will be cool under fire and can kill the attacker without hesitation and without harming others. In Carson’s perfect world, Hitler could have been stopped if only there were community colleges in Nazi Germany.

AP Terrorism Referring to an AP History course that teaches students about civil disobedience, Carson told an audience, “I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS.”

In fairness to Dr. Carson, he has attempted to walk back some of his more ridiculous statements, but we need a President who thinks before he speaks.

We also need a President whose views and positions are based on science and a working knowledge of government and the law. We can’t afford to have Chance the Gardener for our next President. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).