It happens occasionally in the US that someone gets caught for embellishing a resume. Often that person is in college athletics, as a coach or director, with false claims of having graduated, misstatements about athletic achievements, or the listing of positions never held. Depending on the seriousness of the falsifications and the current record of the culprit’s team either an apology or resignation is in order, but other than that there are no serious consequences. Of course embellishment of resumes happens in all walks of life, including the corporate world, academia and politics. I once had to review the resume of an applicant who falsely claimed to have a graduate degree from the college where she was applying, apparently not realizing how easily that could be verified. And it can happen to the best and the brightest: Elizabeth Warren took flak for having chosen ‘native American’ as her ethnicity at Harvard Law School, in spite of the fact that her Cherokee bloodline was only a family rumor, and if she would ever decide to run for a higher office than the one she currently holds that would certainly be recycled against her.
Ben Carson is the latest case of a would-be politician who has a complicated relationship with the truth regarding his own past. In the autobiographic books he has written he tells the rags-to-riches story of an African-American kid from a single parent home who becomes a world famous neurosurgeon. On the way he has to deal with his own violent nature, which makes him once attack his saintly mother with a hammer and on another occasion stick a knife in the belly of a classmate. After that last incident he finds God, or the other way around, and he becomes a star student and a leader of the local ROTC, which earns him a scholarship to West Point. Since Carson is now the frontrunner for the GOP nomination his life’s account is being vetted more carefully than before, and very little of it turns out to be true. There is no doubt that he’s black and a retired neurosurgeon, but reporters are still looking for the hammer and the classmate. Moreover, West Point has no record of anything ever having been offered to Carson, and reminds everybody that as a tuition-free institution it doesn’t give out scholarships.
For Ben Carson the scrutiny comes at a bad time. He had already been criticized for comparing Obamacare to slavery and blaming the Holocaust on gun control, and more recently became the butt of jokes for his theory that the biblical Joseph built the pyramids to store grain rather than dead Pharaohs. In ‘Mother Jones’ David Corn wrote a fascinating piece revealing that Seventh-day Adventists like Carson expect to be imprisoned for celebrating Sabbath on Saturday.
Of course the good doctor is not the only GOP candidate with a millstone around his neck. Jeb! has his family, Rubio used a Republican Party credit card for private expenditures and failed to pay his mortgage, Carly Fiorina ran a high tech company into the ground, and Chris Christie can expect that the prosecution of his former staff members for Bridgegate comes back to haunt him.
The only candidate who is invulnerable for this kind of vetting is Donald Trump. About his three marriages he says “all my wives are beautiful,” and about his four bankruptcies “everybody does it.” He gets away with that and it gives him the freedom to make fun of all the others.