Every presidential cycle, Al Franken’s 1999 comic account of an imaginary presidential campaign, Why Not Me?, gets a little less funny in its absurdities, and not just because Franken is now a U.S. Senator who could plausibly run for president. The bar for a “viable” presidential candidate was most dramatically lowered in 2012, when pizza entrepreneur and radio gabber Herman Cain briefly led the polls for the Republican nomination to become Leader of the Free World. (Yes, Donald Trump led a couple of early random polls the same cycle, but that’s mainly because he was a mega-celebrity with close to 100% name ID).
There’s no telling how many dramatically underqualified people will run for president in 2016 and ascend from the anonymous ranks of cranks and perennial candidates whose campaigns toil in perpetual obscurity. Some, like former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, may even have minimal on-paper credentials and thereby muscle his way onto debate platforms. But the candidate of that nature most likely to make a splash is Dr. Ben Carson, a distinguished neurosurgeon and philanthropist (and also a conservative Christian motivational speaker and writer) who’s become the Latest Big Thing on the conservative defying-the-left circuit.
Because of the good Ben Carson has done in his life, I sincerely hope he decides that God has not, after all, called him to a presidential campaign where he will inescapably be cast in a morally dubious role as the Black Avenger for White Self-Pity. At the very best, he can launch the next version of the Cain Train, momentarily thrilling and frightening the political world with the prospect of a presidential nominee whose main qualification for office is being the anti-Obama.