Trump questions Carson’s faith, temper

Jill Colvin
Associated Press

Fort Dodge, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump didn’t let up his blistering criticism of rival Ben Carson, issuing a new online video ad Friday that calls him a “violent criminal” or “pathological liar.”

Trump, brushing aside any recent claims of civility, has equated Carson’s childhood “pathological temper” to the illness of a child molester, questioned his religious awakening and berated voters who support the retired neurosurgeon.

“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” declared Trump during a rally at Iowa Central Community College Thursday night. “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?” For more than an hour and a half, the billionaire real estate mogul harshly criticized not only Carson, but also many of his other competitors in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

On Friday, Trump and other GOP presidential hopefuls were at the Florida Republican Party’s Sunshine Summit in Orlando, wooing voters and activists for their support in the state’s March 15 primary.

Trump’s new video continues to question Carson’s account of trying to stab a friend when he was young.

“Violent criminal? Or pathological liar?” it asks. “We don’t need either as president.”

Carson said Trump’s broadside is “expected” in politics, but he decried “the politics of personal destruction.”

“I’m hopeful at some point that we reach a level of maturity that we can actually deal with the issues that are facing us right now and stop getting into the mud and doing things that really don’t matter,” Carson told reporters Friday in South Carolina.

Iowa supporters’ response to Donald Trump’s 95-minute eruption? An “ugh” and a shrug.

Trump’s speech, which at times seemed to edge close to meltdown territory, was a change from recent behavior for the Republican presidential contender, who has appeared to be trying to tone down his rhetoric to broaden his appeal. And it comes as the Republican establishment has been growing increasingly alarmed at his staying power.

“He did not do himself any favors when he said that. That’s not the kind of thing you need to be doing,” said Plymouth County Republican Chairman Don Kass, who is neutral in the GOP race. He said Trump’s s comments could turn off undecided voters as well as end up “galvanizing the opposition.”

But Dick Graves, a Trump supporter who attended the rally, said that while the candidate’s comments were perhaps “a little rash,” he wasn’t offended.

“It’s Donald. And he’s an entertaining speaker. I didn’t take it too seriously,” he said.

In his free-wheeling appearance, Trump also said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is rising in the polls, was “weak like a baby, like a baby” and “not a good poker player because every time he’s under pressure he starts to just profusely sweat.” And he said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush didn’t deserve his attention because his campaign is doing so poorly.

Trump accused Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is campaigning to be the first female president, of “playing the woman’s card, big league.”

But his strongest words, by far, were aimed at Carson, whose powerful life story and soft-spoken demeanor have captured the attention of many voters. Trump, once the undisputed poll leader, is now running neck-and-neck with Carson in many opinion surveys.

In recent weeks, Trump has been spending less time lobbing insults and more time talking about how his business experience and negotiating skills qualify him for the presidency. He was visibly mellower during this week’s fourth GOP debate and told reporters he’d been trying to be nicer.

“He’s learning to tone it down,” said Debbie Mabe, a Fort Dodge Democrat and strong Trump supporter who was in the audience and had welcomed the change.

But the performance Trump delivered was far from that.

Trump previewed his line of attack in an interview with CNN Thursday in which the businessman pointed to Carson’s own descriptions of his “pathological temper” as a young man.

“That’s a big problem because you don’t cure that,” Trump said. “That’s like, you know, I could say, they say you don’t cure — as an example, child molester. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure the child molester.” Trump also said that “pathological is a very serious disease.”

In his book “Gifted Hands,” Carson described the uncontrollable anger he felt at times while growing up in inner-city Detroit. He wrote that on one occasion he nearly punched his mother and on another he attempted to stab a friend with a knife.

“I had what I only can label a pathological temper — a disease — and this sickness controlled me, making me totally irrational,” Carson said, in describing the incident with his mother. He referred to “pathological anger” again in telling about lunging at his friend, a knife blade breaking off when it hit the boy’s belt buckle.

No Chinese troops in Syria

Days after asserting that China is involved in the fight in Syria — and after freshly offering to prove it with his own intelligence — Ben Carson acknowledged Friday that there are no Chinese troops in that conflict.

The statement followed Carson’s comments at a South Carolina campaign stop that he had information, better than that available to the White House, showing China’s involvement in Syria. “I’m surprised my sources are better than theirs,” he said.