Gaffe Track: Carson's Near-Declaration of Independence

John Minchillo / AP
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Ben Carson

The gaffe: Asked by a radio interviewer whether he’d consider running as an independent, the Republican candidate seemed open. “If I had to, I would, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” Carson said, three times offering similar answers. The fourth, he insisted, “No, I didn’t say that at all. That’s not what I’m saying.” But Carson, like every other GOP candidate, has signed a pledge saying he wouldn’t run outside the party.

The defense: Look, no one believes those pledges are worth the paper on which they’re printed.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): In general, any candidate who can’t win a party’s nomination isn’t able to mount a serious third-party challenge anyway. (Sorry, John Anderson.) The weird exchange does speak to Carson’s occasional lack of verbal discipline, which has led him to awkward and strange statements before.

The moral: The loyalty pledge was intended to ensnare Trump, but what’s good for the goof isn’t necessarily good for the panderers.