A great metaphor is like a brain tumor: it’ll linger in your mind for much longer than it should. (A bad metaphor, of course, is like that too.) And political speech is much like a brain full of brain tumors, i.e. nonfunctional, both in a “metaphorical” sense and a real one. Hey, where’d you go?

Ben Carson, a gentle salamander with tender paws, used some metaphors last night in the GOP debate, and thanks to the Washington Post’s transcript, we’re looking at them. Let’s turn on the lights in this operating theater, put on our blogging tumors, and get in there with the scalpel of our minds.


Metaphor 1: AMERICA HAS CANCER

In Carson’s opening remarks, he said:

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You know, as a pediatric neurosurgeon, I frequently faced life and death situations, and had to come up with the right diagnosis, the right plan, and execute that plan frequently with other colleagues.

Right now, the United States of America is the patient. And the patient is in critical condition and will not be cured by political correctness and will not be cured by timidity.

And I am asking the Congress, which represents the people, to declare a war on ISIS so that we can begin the process of excising that cancer and begin the healing process, and bring peace, prosperity, and safety back to America.

OK, so. America is a sick patient who has been referred to Ben Carson for diagnosis and treatment. Ben Carson was a pediatric neurosurgeon, so America is a baby. America is a sick baby who has ISIS cancer—cancer is a decent metaphor for ISIS, we should say—and needs to be treated with the chemotherapy of war, not the [light therapeutic massage] of political correctness or the [ouchie Mr. Bump pack from CVS] of timidity.

Sounds great.

Metaphor 2: AMERICA NEEDS A HOLE IN ITS HEAD

Hugh Hewitt said, to Ben Carson:

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People admire and respect and are inspired by your life story, your kindness, your evangelical core support. We’re talking about ruthless things tonight—carpet bombing, toughness, war. And people wonder, could you do that? Could you order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands? Could you wage war as a commander-in-chief?

Carson replied:

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Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them we’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor. They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.

OK. So, sick America baby with the bad case of ISIS cancer needs Ben Carson to “open its head up.” Or else, ISIS, the cancer itself, needs to deal with the fact that Ben Carson’s going to take it out. Ben Carson is correct that brain surgery and declaring war are roughly similar in that almost no one should do either and certainly no one should ever be qualified to do both. His line of thinking is like me being all:

I think I’d be great at declaring war because I always know when to press publish on a blog post! xx

Sent from my iPhone

Metaphor 3: AMERICA NEEDS TO DIE

Carson continued, from that:

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You know, later on, you know, they really realize what’s going on. And by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by 1,000 pricks.

Ohhh—oh—so...he actually wants to kill us. Quickly. Fine by me!

Metaphor 4: AMERICA NEEDS OXYGEN

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, is the Middle East better off with dictators?

CARSON: No one is ever better off with dictators but there comes a time you know, when you’re on an airplane, they always say, “in case of an emergency oxygen masks will drop down. Put yours on first and then administer help to your neighbor.” We need oxygen right now. And we need to start thinking about the needs of the American people before we go and solve everybody else’s problems.

So, in this metaphor, the world is a plane. The Middle East and America are sitting next to each other in aisle 28; maybe they’re babies, maybe not. The Middle East is slightly disabled on account of all the dictators, and America totally would help, except the plane is starting to crash in an ISIS emergency and America is going to take 36 months deciding how best to put its own oxygen mask on and then we’re all going to die anyway.

Bonus passage:

CARSON: But also, you know, this whole concept of boots on the ground, you know, we’ve got a phobia about boots on the ground. If our military experts say, we need boots on the ground, we should put boots on the ground and recognize that there will be boots on the ground and they’ll be over here, and they’ll be their boots if we don’t get out of there now.

I think Ben Carson may have a bit of a “tumor” himself.


Image via AP.

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Contact the author at jia@jezebel.com.