Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ben Carson and West Point: When is an Offer not an Offer?

Was it an "offer" or an "offer"?

Dozens of articles published at reputable sites and not so reputable sites have deliberated about Ben Carson's latest story over the last couple of days: Carson claimed that he was "offered a full scholarship to West Point" in his 1995 book Gifted Hands.  Most liberal and moderate sites are skewering Carson over this; some right-leaning sites are also saying he is "done". 

But several right-leaning sites, including one called the Daily Wire News, have published articles claiming that the mean old press was lying about that nice Ben Carson man. Ben Shapiro's article at the Daily Wire News is titled:

No, Ben Carson Didn't Lie About West Point. It's Another Media Hit Job.

Ben Carson from Politico

The Liberal Media Strikes Again!

The article starts with a rant about the liberal media, in this case, Politico, which I have never considered specifically  "liberal".   Politico's article about the West Point scholarship included this comment:
Ben Carson’s campaign on Friday admitted, in a response to an inquiry from POLITICO, that a central point in his inspirational personal story was fabricated: his application and acceptance into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
(Later Politico changed the introductory paragraph to read as follows:
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Friday conceded that he never applied nor was granted admission to West Point and attempted to recast his previous claims of a full scholarship to the military academy — despite numerous public and written statements to the contrary over the last few decades. West Point has occupied a central place in Carson’s personal story for years.)

Shapiro in the Daily Wire takes issue with the word "fabricated".

Here's the deal: Carson wrote in his 1995 book
Gifted Hands that he was "offered a full scholarship to West Point" after meeting with General William Westmoreland and other military officials at a Memorial Day dinner when he was a ROTC leader in high school:

"I was offered a full scholarship to West Point."

What does it mean to get an "offer" from a school?

Now... What would you assume if your neighbor told you that her college-bound kid had received an offer of a full scholarship to a prestigious university?    

I know what "being offered a full scholarship" would mean to me:  I would assume that the kid filled out various forms and applications, submitted the necessary recommendations or "nominations", went through the interview process, and then eventually got an official letter of acceptance in the mail saying that he/she was being offered a slot and that he/she didn't have to pay anything.  Even back in the Stone Ages of 1968/9, you weren't accepted to a college or university until you had an acceptance letter in hand, and that letter came in the US mail. 

The procedure to get into West Point today is easily found online, and it is long and involved.  I'm sure the application process has changed somewhat since 1968 or 1969, but I am also sure that there was a formal application and acceptance process "offer" back then.  A nod from even General Westmoreland would not constitute an "offer" unless the individual applied to West Point and followed up on the process and went through the necessary vetting.  

From what I have read, all West Point appointments are completely free to those who are accepted, so there would not be a separate procedure for getting a scholarship if the school in question was West Point.

It just didn't happen!

In any event, this procedure did not happen with Carson. He went to the Memorial Day dinner after a parade when he was in high school and a ROTC leader. So far, that hasn't been debunked. But the "offer of a full scholarship to West Point"?  Either Westmoreland or some other military person at that gathering talked to Carson and told him that they could get him an appointment to West Point if he was interested.

Carson says that he doesn't remember exactly who said what to him.  It's unclear if the person who talked to Carson had the authority to "promise" him a nomination. It's highly unlikely that Carson was told that he didn't  have to go through the application process; that, if he would just show up in New York in September 1969, he would be in. He might have been told that, if he were interested, so-and-so would nominate him and help him with the process.

Apparently he decided he was not interested and later told someone (again, not sure whom) that he wasn't interested.

Now to me, that was NOT the same as "being offered a full scholarship to West Point". He never went through an application process and he never received any offer of acceptance.  He never went through any vetting process in terms of his physical condition and never submitted any test scores to West Point.  

The situation as it is now being described, the conversation at the dinner, is NOT what he alluded to in his book.

What does the "offer of a scholarship" mean to you?

I'll repeat that: To me, an "offer of a full scholarship" means that you have gone through the application process and have received an official acceptance and scholarship. Period. This is what I assumed that Carson had gone through when I first heard of the "offer of the West Point scholarship" a few months back.  However, Carson did NOT go through that application process and he did NOT receive any official acceptance; therefore, no "offer".

What if Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders wrote in a book that they had been "offered" admission to a prestigious school or institution?  How would the same right-leaning press, including Ben Shapiro, respond if it turned out that some important official merely promised them that they would be admitted to that prestigious school or institution if they wished, but that they had never actually applied or been accepted?  Well, we should all know the answer to that.  They would be assaulted by the right, just as they are all assaulted by the right about anything and everything as it is.

Truth of Consequences?

Did Carson lie or did he stretch the truth? Was Politico wrong in highlighting this "serious question" about Carson?   Considering that most people reading or skimming through Carson's book would assume from its wording, as I did,  that he actually had been officially "offered" an appointment to West Point, it sounds like a lie.

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