In the early fall, things looked good for Ben Carson's presidential campaign. Very, very good. Then, December produced a month full of downward slides, tumbles and resignations. By the start of this year, Carson's best-known unofficial adviser, Armstrong Williams, was predicting a marked resurgence.
Instead, as the Iowa caucuses loom next week, Williams has apparently become the latest casualty of a campaign in free fall. At a breakfast with reporters on Wednesday, Carson even used words like "dysfunction" and "not the epitome of truth" to describe Williams. Both men now insist Williams was never really a big part the campaign -- despite his regularly arranging interviews with the candidate and setting up events.
Now, odds are that a strong majority of people who just read the preceding sentences had one of three thoughts: "Who the heck is Armstrong Williams?" "What was Williams's real connection to the campaign?" Or, "Why is the usually mild-manned, almost serene Carson talking that way about someone supposed to be his friend?"
There's good reason for all three questions. And they all boil down to the thoroughly unique political entity that is Armstrong Williams.
Williams, 55, has the résumé of a modern man of many interconnected trades. He is the self-described longtime friend, business manager and unofficial top adviser to Carson. Williams is a Republican political operative, columnist and media figure with some surprising mentors, clients and allies. He's the author of books with titles hinting at the strong dose of Republican psychological guidance found inside. There's Williams's "Beyond Blame," and then there's also the book Williams co-authored with 1996 and 2000 GOP presidential candidate and publisher Steve Forbes called, "Letters to a Young Victim: Hope and Healing in America's Inner Cities."