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Legal Scholar: My West Point offer was just like Ben Carson’s

Legal Scholar: My West Point offer was just like Ben Carson’s

It was verbal and informal, but “by any fair-minded description, it was an offer.”

I attended a three year high school from 1978 to 1981. I took the PSAT in tenth grade, and I checked off a box in the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test application inviting colleges to send me their literature.

I was contacted by the United States Military Academy (“USMA”) at West Point, New York; my best friend was contacted by the United States Naval Academy (“USNA”) at Annapolis, Maryland. We were both invited to attend a conference for high school students interested in attending a service academy and in a military career.

I went to the USMA conference; my friend went to the USNA conference, as did 100s of other high school students that year. Everyone knew the score: (1) the government picked up your education costs; (2) the government paid you a salary as you worked towards an engineering degree; (3) when you graduated, you were made an officer; and (4) then you served for four years in the military.

It was a great opportunity: but only if you could survive the rigours of military academy life. And the conference gave you a fair opportunity to observe those rigours close up.

During the conference, a major approached me individually, by name, and pulled me out of earshot of other student-attendees. I have always assumed he (or his colleagues) had similar conversations with many if not with all the other student-attendees.

I was told that if I apply, I would get in. It was as simple as that. I had very good standardized test scores and very good grades from my high school. When the major told me that I would get in if I applied, I believed him. I was told that West Point would find a Senator or Representative to nominate me, or I would come in with a number of students the academy could choose itself. I did not inquire about the details of the application process.


I told the major—having observed what the academy expected of its students athletically and otherwise—that I was sure to fail his programme. So I thanked him for the opportunity to attend the conference, but my applying was not in the cards. I made the right choice that day—although my decision was a real disappointment to my late father.

My scores and grades were good, very good, but I have no reason to think mine were the highest among the many student-attendees. I cannot believe that I was the only person to have received, what was in effect, assurances that if I applied I would get in.

By any fair-minded description, it was an offer to attend West Point. Albeit, the offer was not in writing; it was an informal oral offer. Surely, many, many other people received similar offers. I expect that large list also includes Ben Carson.

PS: This conference was less than a decade after the end of the Vietnam War. This was a time when the service academies still had to make some substantial efforts to attract candidates with strong academic records. I expect those days are long gone.


Seth Barrett Tillman is an American national living abroad and teaching in a foreign law faculty. He is a lecturer in the Maynooth University Department of Law, Ireland. Roinn Dlí Ollscoil Mhá Nuad.

This post originally ran at The New Reform Club.


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I have a very similar story, except that the offer was for graduate school from a Texas land grant university.

Perhaps all of the people at Politico, the New York Times, and so many other “news” outlets were so far down the academic food chain they never received such an offer?

Just like none of the reporters surrounding Dan Rather did not know the difference between a document produced on a typewriter and on a computer?

Meanwhile, today’s San Diego Union-Tribune is running the latest smear article, this time with a Washington Post citation.

I’m done. I’ve dug into three different Ben Carson “lie” stories and come up with zero, zip, nada, all originating with the a$$holes who spiked the stories about financial misconduct in the Obama campaigns, and the Clinton campaign.

I’m done. I donated to the Carson campaign, yesterday.

    Grad school admissions work the same way. If someone on the faculty wants you, you get in, and you get an informal offer before filling out applications.

    Skookum in reply to Valerie. | November 13, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    The progressive machine obviously fears Carson more than Trump does. The Southern Belle, sHrillary, likely dreads the idea of losing to another Black man.

My story is similar. I too attended the USNA conference in my junior year in high school based on my PSAT. I was highly encouraged to apply but was never given an verbal assurance I would get in. I went ahead with the application process and was triple qualified (mentally, physically and medically). Unfortunately for me my congressman had already promised his two nominations to some rich donors kids that never even applied and though the academy made an effort they could not find me a nomination. As a consolation prize I was given a 4 year NROTC scholarship to the school of my choosing.

Worked out great for me but it was the start of my disgust with politicians that continues to grow every day.

mine was similar.
except my sat sucked.
my asvab however was top 2% of country so army, af, navy,marine recruiters all called me and told me I could have any mos in system or go to an academy.
I got the any mos in writing from army recruiter and went enlisted. at in processing they tried to shunt me off saying mos (MP 95B) was full so I walked out. they ran out after me to stop me.
some advice… time just keep walking away.

    MattMusson in reply to dmacleo. | November 9, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    West Point even maintains a Prep School for people they want but who do not have the grades yet.

      DaveGinOly in reply to MattMusson. | November 10, 2015 at 12:38 am

      I attended BCT at Ft. Knox in the fall of 1974. While there, I was recruited by both the USMA Prep School and the White House Communications Agency. (I had been in an advanced, college placement course in HS, but elected to enlist in the military instead of going to college.) These offers were extended to me based on my scores in the Army’s admissions tests. (Including 147 in the General Technical, or “GT” test, which the Army considers its IQ test – it has a top score of 153.)

      I declined, did my four years active duty (11D, Cavalry Scout), and got out. See how smart I am?

    ThomasD in reply to dmacleo. | November 10, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Yep, I had a very similar experience after the USNA turned me down. Kept getting calls from recruiters promising the moon and stars. I checked out the Navy’s nuclear program, and even got to sit for the ASVAB without signing anything. But it was pretty clear I was being gamed, with no actual guarantee of anything, so I walked away.

    It’s a designed system – even for the Academies. They talk you up, dangle all the enticements, trying to generate as many applicants as possible. That way they always feel as if they are getting the ‘cream of the crop’ rather than settling for the fewer who would apply otherwise.

I don’t know about these military schools. Do they have sufficient safe spaces for cadets that feel threatened or unsafe. Do they give trigger warnings before they talk about icky things like guns and war? Can cadets wear their pajamas to class if they oversleep? What about beards…. those struggling scraggy student beards are really cool, even on males.

Things to consider in todays academic world.

One of my sons went to the USNA summer seminar. The summer seminars are held by both the USNA and WP, probably AF as well. It is very difficult to get in the summer seminar, often described as more difficult then getting an appointment.

During that week he was approached by a couple of staff teachers to discuss his future with respect to the USNA. The discussion was similar to the article, he was encouraged to apply and told he would get in. I have no doubt that he would have had he chosen this path. With an almost perfect SAT (missed one verbal question), perfect on the math, Eagle Scout, and lots of other accomplishments and leadership roles, why wouldn’t they want him? I’m certain other candidates of exceptional quality would have received similar treatment. The USN would be fools not to seek out young people with the particular qualifications they desire.

No, it was not an official offer. I think it was as close as one can get within the USNA procedures. If my son were to describe this 30 years later I can see where he might call it a scholarship offer.

How many were approached this way? I have no idea but can only imagine that others of higher than normal qualifications were. One of my sons friends went the week after, 1500+ SAT, similar qualifications and got the same basic treatment.

I expect that the very gifted high quality young people that show an interest in one of the academy’s are “highly encouraged” to apply with near guarantee’s. I would certainly hope this is the case.

The Left, as fronted by the Looney Tune TV program “The View,” can’t make fun of Carson’s face. He’s a black man and that would be profiling. So they are going to question his bona fides as if each of them could pass such a test.

They are the PC “comediennes” and therefore “free” to spew vile at conservatives.

And, these are the same folks who buy into anthropogenic-(UN manufactured)-hooey-of-global-climate-warming change.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | November 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I only did one enlistment, but when I got to Germany to my only permanent duty station I shared a room with a guy who claimed he’d been promised a slot at OCS. Not a commission, but just a chance to go through OCS and try to get a commission. This was in the early ’80s. He did not have a college degree but he had a few semesters of college. During that time the Army was trying to improve its image after Vietnam and upgrade its personnel to a permanent all volunteer force. So enlisted people with some college were prized. He told me that he was wearing the rank of PFC from his very first day, bypassing E-1 and E-2, so his story about being promised a shot at OCS made at least some sense.

According to him, the agreement was that after he completed basic and AIT he was to be sent directly to OCS to compete for a commission. Instead, the Army cut orders sending him to Germany. He said he complained stateside but he was told he’d have to straighten it all out after he got to Germany. So once he got to Germany he tried working it out. But everybody he went to told him there was nothing they could do. He went to personnel, JAG, even the IG. Nobody would help him get what he believed he was entitled to. Then one day it finally came to a head. I remember he got into a public shouting match with the company commander and he told the CO that he may be required by regulation to salute him but he would never respect him as a man. That was the end of his military career. He got busted down to E-1 – a rank he’d never held – and he had a permanent case of the azz until he was discharged a few months later.

I think he was confused about what the recruiter had told him. I think the deal was that with his few semesters of college and his ASVAB scores that he had the minimum qualifications to APPLY to OCS, but he was wrong to believe he had been guaranteed a slot.

But he wouldn’t have it, and destroyed his military career.

It sounds like you all are very, very confused! This just
could not of happened? Just ask the media how sent their top
reporters who donated large sums of money to the lefty’s!
They scoured up and down and back and forth and could not find anyone who said this did not happen. So they just used some very creative writing and said no one could confirm this so it did not happen!! There case closed all the nasty headlines are out there and some damage done!
(Written with a heavy dose of sarcasm!)

There are things about Dr. Carson’s policy positions that give me pause. His characterization of the potential “scholarship” to a military academy does not. That he did not precisely recall the events of 30 years prior likewise does not.

100% leftist bullshit from people who wouldn’t lift a finger to correct, let alone look into, the countless outright lies from Obama & Clinton.

Yeah I’ve maintained since the start… both sides are hiding behind technicalities, but Carson’s using a layman’s understanding of the word “offer” (rather than a Clintonian hyper-technical understanding) is no sin worth beating up on him for, which is exactly what The Politico tried to do. Well, and then say Carson admitted deception.

Fine, as far as it goes.

Even today after so many refutations many so called news sites have headlines saying Carson lied, are they run by robots that keep spewing the same crap day after day?

Since this relatively anonymous, I can post this here. In the mid ’60’s, I was contacted by the USMA (among other schools), first by letter, and then by personal telephone call asking for a face-to-face. I think I was a high school senior at the time, and it was based on my SAT’s, 1500+, and a National Merit scholarship, plus some moderate sports stuff, grades etc. I was assured of early acceptance if I applied. I was interested but gave in to family pressure and attended the family school. But I think it fair to say – if not completely explanatory – that I was offered a full ride to West Point if I chose to frame it in that fashion, since that’s the way it works, all expenses covered plus a small salary since you become a paid employee of the U S government. BTW, I do not believe that every member of the freshman class at any of the service academies has to be nominated by the Congressional delegates from the respective states. I think the academies have some number of slots reserved to the academy itself outside of the traditional nominating process. That aside, Carson’s description sounds perfectly believable to me, and quite straightforward. It may well be true that the academy recruiters were promising more to many of us than they could actually deliver, but that does not detract from Carson’s belief or honesty. So, typical media BS based on a lack of understanding and lack of commitment to achieving that understanding, one they got the lede they wanted.

All of his scholarly pursuits could have been paid for if he had accepted the “offer” to get into a successful appointment process. What is missing so far is the FACT that Westmoreland was a USMA hero and I believe even has a statue there. As a USNA (Naval Academy) grad of 1966, I can tell you blacks were being recruited big time in the late 60’s to meet diversity requirements, so people like Carson were actually “guaranteed” an appointment if only they would bother to apply. Without applying, it would never occur to anyone receiving such an offer that it was not an offer of a full scholarship to that institution of higher learning. They would likely not apply the nuance that they had to pay back with obligated service since the war in Vietnam was ongoing and so was the draft. If anything, serving as an officer would be far less of a commitment or pay back in any war involving ground troops being shot at. I think anyone who objects to Carson’s characterization of the offer to go to West Point is simply uninformed and likely politicized to an extreme degree. Of course, media people are likely cluelessly searching for any flaw in this diamond of a man so that they can have their Watergate moment or something similar. THEY WERE NEVER offered anything close to an appointment to West Point facilitated by someone who could easily make it happen. I had to struggle to get my appointment to USNA and would have welcomed a guarantee of an appointment such as presented by General Westmoreland to the young Ben Carson. I was in the Civil Air Patrol and Carson was in an HS ROTC unit. I was a top student and so was he. I accepted an offer for a congressional appointment, and he turned down what was likely an offer for a presidential appointment, greatly facilitated (likely guaranteed) by a great USMA alumnus. It would be more informative to find out how many black students were facilitated by Westmoreland in getting “accepted” to a service academy back then, but even if it were none, smart responses also considered the ongoing Vietnam War and the fact that even good students went to Canada or Mexico to avoid the draft. The Valedictorian and others from my HS went to Canada to avoid the draft, which turned out to be a smart approach. I had two deployments to Vietnam waters in USS Enterprise after graduating from USNA and going to Nuclear Power School, got an additional “scholarship” to MIT for 2 years and 2 graduate degrees, and later became a top nuclear engineering consultant as a result of my decision to accept a congressional offer for a full scholarship to USNA. I was also offered slots at the other service academies but thought USNA was a safer military adventure!

Politico’s shameless slander continues even today:

The article states as fact two blatant lies: that he ‘fabricated’ his West Point story and that he did not attempt to stab a classmate as a child. His mother confirmed that latter story in a magazine article in 1997.

As I’ve said, Carson’s not my choice, but the media’s dishonesty is breathtaking at times.

    Sammy Finkelman in reply to Daiwa. | November 10, 2015 at 11:07 am

    The article states as fact two blatant lies: that he ‘fabricated’ his West Point story and that he did not attempt to stab a classmate as a child. His mother confirmed that latter story in a magazine article in 1997.

    It doesn’t strictly say that.

    It says:

    But allegations that Carson fabricated significant features of his autobiography…have not swayed Havely’s faith in Carson. “I don’t doubt anything he says,” he says.

    After looking at the link, I felt it is aimed more at protecting the reputation of Politico than at further spreading the lies – not that that might not be happening also.

    This article, in my opinion, is aimed at two audiences: Those who know the answers to the most reiterated (and most faulty) claims, and those who do not know. Politico does a pretty good job at threading the needle, but does not do so perfectly. If you know the full story, you can see the dishonesty here (but you have to know it pretty well.)

    For one thing, there is one outright lie here – that Politico itself actually silently corrected! – that Carson claimed that he was admitted to West Point.

    Carson never claimed any such thing – and saying that he was offered a scholarship is not the same thing as saying he was admitted to West Point, or even applied – which he actually makes quite clear in his books did not happen. But some readers of Politico may remember Politico claiming he had claimed that, so it’s repeated.

    Another thing:

    This article mentions what may be the very same 1997 article – if the article in Parade is the same one – BTW, mentioning Parade makes Politico look like a really good source of information! – where Carson’s mother said of the knifing: “That really happened”

    The only thing it seems to quote from the 1997 Parade article are the words “moist eyes” (of the students who watched the play)

    Oh – but the Politico article does say that she found inaccuracies in the play, although only citing something about herself:

    Sonya Carson, Ben’s mother, came to a performance of the play every other week, according to Havely. She was a constant critic of her son’s character and her own, letting Havely and the play’s directors know when the fictional “Mama” got a little too sharp-tongued.

    That, of course, actually reinforces the idea that what she said about the knife attack really happening was NOT an inaccuracy. That is, some things are wrong in the play, but that really happened.

    And I think I can read what she is quoted there as saying (but not in Politico) to mean that she wishes to establish that she was the one who turned Ben Carson around after the knife incident, and he didn’t realize it all by himself. (I am not sure how the play makes it out to be)

politico and rolling stone, political whores all

theduchessofkitty | November 10, 2015 at 10:36 am

Around 1986-87, two admissions officers showed up to interview my husband – then a HS Senior with honors-level grades, a part-time job at a supermarket stocking shelves – and no extracurricular activities to speak of. They asked him, point blank, “So, Mr.[DukeofKitty], you do not have anything in your resume, other than this part-time job at this supermarket and the Honors Society. Don’t you think that, by working at this job, you may have missed all the opportunities offered by all the extracurricular activities in high school?”

“Perhaps,” the Duke replied, “but I learned a work ethic.”

The admissions officers looked at each other, and nodded very slightly, in a way to make sure he didn’t see their reaction. But he saw it.

About a week or two later, he had been nominated by his U.S. Senator to USMA at West Point. He could have gone there with a full ride. He rejected it.

Why? USMA didn’t offer what he was after: he wanted to be an engineer. As far as I know, USMA didn’t offer that degree. So, he went Maritime – and USMMA at Kings Point, the smallest, most unknown and most neglected of ALL Federal academies. (Any KPer who reads this knows it’s true.)

He went through plebe year and all that entailed. He even told me about the first couple of weeks, when one plebe ran like a mad man across the hallways, screaming, “I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!!” He never saw that plebe again. And if plebe year at KP was bad enough, I’ve heard people call West Point’s “Plebe Year From Hell.” But boy, the Army trains them GOOD. I once went to a mixer at WP with my college friends. I couldn’t care less about the cadets. But my friends and I met this very nice 1st company cadet. He was from Louisiana: well-mannered, nicest and funniest guy I’ve ever met, WP football player, and the most amazing muscles I’ve ever seen in a cadet. Forgot his name, but I can still remember his smile. He was interested in one of my friends – but she wasn’t. (But I’m seriously digressing here.)

Four years later, the Duke earned his Engineering degree at KP – plus a commission in the Naval Reserve and a Third Engineer’s USCG license. He still had to fulfill a commitment to the Naval Reserve for seven years after graduation, which he did.

Remember that a full ride at West Point – or any other Federal academy – comes with a price: a certain number of years of commitment to the branch of the service the cadet/midshipman is in. For Army, it’s ten years.

He could have gone for the big West Point honor. Instead, he knew what he wanted, and was practical. He has never regretted his decision. He has said to me they didn’t call it a “scholarship”, but I believe this was because he was a HS Senior at a time when the Federal academies weren’t having a hard time finding applicants. (It was the Reagan era.) So, they changed their semantics a bit, after the hard years of the Vietnam war and its aftermath. So, I don’t think Ben Carson was lying.

Sammy Finkelman | November 10, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Whoever is behind it may not have given up on the lies yet.

The claim that Ben Carson’s campaign “was forced to concede” that “he had never actually applied and been granted admission” is repeated here, citing Politico, like it can’t possibly understand how someone could be offered a scholarship and yet never been granted admission or even applied.

There’s been too much about this throughout the Internet explaining exactly how that could happen, for Politico not to know.

And furthermore, Carson never made any claim, any place, any time, that anybody can cite, that the scholarship offer came after admission. Maybe he did somewhere but nobody has cited a source yet.

Now, maybe you can’t get, or couldn’t have gotten, a formal offer without being admitted or at least applying, but that’s not what Carson said happened.

This op-ed article here in the New York Times also repeats the Wall Street Journal’s psychology test story, although that’s been somewhat clarified. (it was considerably garbled and/or fictionalized in one of Ben Carson’s books, because Carson used a ghostwriter/co-author and didn’t correct him or check details, and let him get away with it, but something like that did happen. The co-author and his agent have refused to talk to the press.)

Another “lie” of Carson’s is just an error, that probably stems from not being too familiar with early American history.

Carson had claimed on Facebook that none of the signers of the Declaration of Independence held previous elective office. Well, maybe you could think that no elective offices existed previously, but that’s not true – there were colonial legislative bodies, as a close reading of the Declaration of Independence might let you know. But that’s just ignorance, not a lie. Carson later changed that to “federal” office, which however, vitiates, most of his argument against inexperience.

Another claim is that Carson’s statement “nine out of 10 nonprofits fail,” is a lie, rather than an error. If that’s a lie, than what about Hillary’s claim that 90% of the e-mails she supplied to the State Department were archived anyway?

Oh – and then there’s the “Fox Butterfield, is that you” moment.

Charles Blow writes: “Of the 19 claims of Carson the fact checking site PolitiFact has delved into, none have been ruled true and only one mostly true”

If any of them checked out, Politifact wouldn’t have included it! What is this – a random sample of Carson statements??

Also, in another column, Richard Cohen (not to be confused with Roger Cohen) wrote a dishonest column about this in the Washington Post, syndicated in the New York Daily News.

Richard Cohen has Carson claiming that General William C. Westmoreland urged him to apply to West Point. But Carson never said that in his book.

In what looks to me like it could be a correction of something his ghostwriter attempted to write, Carson writes that he met Westmoreland at a Memorial Day event (wrong date – that night have been in February)

The next sentence in Carson’s book says “later” he “was offered” a full scholarship to West Point.

Nothing about Westmoreland being involved, although maybe a sentence saying that could have edited out. And note the passive tense.

If what I suspect is the case, I wonder how Politico found about the original version. Now maybe Carson did say that somewhere, but again, nobody has cited a source yet.

Now another thing: Richard Cohen mentions that the New York Times mentioned Hillary Clinton and her emails in an article about lies during this campaign – but does not cite any examples! – although he does for all the other candidates he mentions – and instead writes:

“God, who can follow that story anymore?”

This reeks of dishonesty.

I think that what that tells you, if you didn’t figure this out already, is that it is Democrats and/or the Hillary Clinton campaign who are behind the attacks on Ben Carson, and not Donald Trump.

This is exactly my experience. I was essentially offered a scholarship at West Point in this manner based on grades and my sports acumen at track. So I was pulled aside and essentially offered a scholarship and the rest was mere formality. I applied, got a congressional backer (pretty much automatically), was accepted and attended West Point. Carson had a leadership role in ROTC and so was even more qualified than me. His story is completely credible. It is offered as a “scholarship” and extremely qualified people are taken aside for personal petting by recruiters.