During the Republican presidential primary campaign, Donald Trump called Ben Carson “pathological” and compared his temper to that of a child molester.
But no matter. Like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Carson had perfectly logical self-interested reasons for making this endorsement.
Politicians are always tempted to back the winner before he wins, in an effort to get in his good graces. But a Trump endorsement is more likely than usual to pay off in the form of power or influence within an administration.
At the endorsement press conference, Carson was asked whether he’d be interested in serving in Trump’s administration. Carson said he and Trump had already agreed he would be involved in formulating policy.
“I would be very interested in helping to achieve the goal of saving America and making it great,” he said.
A normal candidate comes into a campaign with a huge entourage of operatives, allies and experts — staffers from a Senate office or a gubernatorial administration, councils of policy experts advising a campaign, longtime political supporters, major donors. When you endorse a regular candidate like Sen. Ted Cruz, you’re getting in line behind those people in the pursuit of power in the administration.
Trump has no such entourage. When Christie endorsed him, he became overnight Trump’s most important political ally. He probably thinks the endorsement put him in excellent position to be vice president — or at least attorney general — and he’s probably right.
Trump’s complete lack of ideological principles is, perversely, another good reason to endorse him. If you think Trump is an empty vessel, being one of his early prominent backers puts you in a good position to fill the vessel with whatever ideas you think are good.
Now consider Ben Carson. Would a President Cruz or President Marco Rubio be likely to allow Carson within a mile of the policy-making apparatus? Of course not. They already have strongly held policy views and cadres of policy advisers more qualified than Carson. At best, he could hope to be surgeon general.
Of course, it’s also possible a President Trump would end up excluding Carson, too. Or he could make Carson the secretary of health and human services. At least with Trump, Carson has a shot at power and relevance.
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