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First Read: Welcome to the Big Leagues, Ben Carson

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
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First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Welcome to the big leagues, Ben Carson (and everyone else)

After a week of intense scrutiny (on his views on the Egyptian pyramids, on whether he truly tried to stab someone, on whether he was offered a full scholarship to West Point), Ben Carson declared he had enough. "I have always said that I expect to be vetted. But being vetted and what is going on with me, 'You said this 30 years ago, you said this 20 years ago, this didn't exist, this didn't.' You know, I just, I have not seen that with anyone else," Carson told NBC's Chris Jansing. "Or if you can show me where that's happened with someone else, I will take that statement back." Well, here's our try: We found a combined 165 New York Times and Washington Post articles that were all (or partially) about Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright between the time Obama first launched his presidential bid (Feb. 2007) and his 2008 victory (Nov. 2008). During that same time period, we found an additional 41 New York Times and Washington Post pieces on Obama and Bill Ayers. And from the start of her campaign (April 2015) until now, we discovered a combined 44 NYT/WaPo articles about Hillary Clinton and her email server. Our friend Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post even wrote a post entitled: "Why I've written 50 posts on Hillary Clinton's emails." Bottom line: When you're atop of the presidential polls, you're going to get scrutiny — lots of it.

If you can't deal with media scrutiny as a candidate, you won't be able to handle it as president

And while our system of picking a president is imperfect — especially when it comes to the news media's role in it — do realize this: It's maybe the closest simulation to actually being in the Oval Office. For all of the attention Obama received on Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, those stories paled in comparison to the intense scrutiny of the BP spill, selling the health-care law, dealing with the HealthCare.Gov crash, and reacting to the party's 2010 and 2014 midterm losses. For George W. Bush, his presidency went through the ringer of the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, Harriet Miers, the Social Security-reform push, and the financial crash. So if you can't deal with the news media picking apart your autobiography and your past speeches, you probably won't be able to deal with the bad news that inevitably comes your way as president.

"Would I have preferred to be doing something else? Certainly"

One other thing struck us about Carson's interview with Chis Jansing: He's not enjoying any of this.

JANSING: Is this fun for you?

CARSON: Would I have preferred to be doing something else? Certainly. But it is important to me. And when I think about the sacrifices that were made by those who preceded us in order that we might have the freedom that we have now, it's the very least that I can do.

Fiorina: I don't need to release a detailed tax plan

On "Meet the Press" over the weekend, Carly Fiorina was asked why she is one of just two candidates who hasn't released a detailed tax plan. Her answer: "Well, let me disagree with the premise of your question. How often do politicians put out detailed plans? How often do they get enacted? Never. That's the problem. Politicians put out detailed plans for all kinds of things that never happen. But if you go to the website, what you can do is ask a question, and you will see me answering the question in public, verbally." More Fiorina: "Anybody can write a plan. Anybody can put a plan on a website. It's another thing to say, 'You know what I think we need to do?'" Our take: When a candidate isn't releasing plans, they're usually building a brand rather than a candidacy to actually win the office.

Rubio's biggest credit-card sin? Being sloppy

After Marco Rubio's campaign released two more years of statements from his Florida GOP credit card, it's safe to conclude that he didn't commit a crime or engage in any ethical wrongdoing. But here's his biggest sin: He was sloppy. The AP: "Rubio has long said he would occasionally pull out his party American Express card to pay for personal items by mistake. When he wanted new pavers outside his house in Miami, Rubio paid Iberia Tiles $3,756.24 on his party card. He paid the personal expense the following month to American Express, the campaign said Saturday." More, per the New York Times: But those payments were routinely late — 21 times over the course of those four years — sometimes because he did not pay on time, and sometimes because the Republican Party fell behind. The account, which was listed under his name, was assessed delinquency charges seven times, adding up to $1,639.47.

Bernie on Hillary: "We have many different points of view, and I will discuss those vigorously."

Turning to the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders on "Meet" justified his more aggressive posture toward Hillary Clinton — and argued that he's not making personal attacks. "In terms of disagreeing with Hillary Clinton, yeah, I do, on many, many issues. You know, what I understand politics and elections to be about is to discuss differences of opinion. I intend to do that and do that vigorously. That does not mean that I'm making personal attacks against somebody I respect. I disagree with Hillary Clinton on whether or not we should break up the large financial institutions in this country. I don't have a super PAC. She does have a super PAC. We have many different points of view and I will discuss those vigorously."

Obama and Bibi meet again

Finally, President Obama and Israel PM Netanyahu hold their first face-to-face meeting in more than a year. The AP: "Tensions over the U.S.-backed nuclear deal with Iran continue to strain ties between the longtime allies. But there's also little hope of progress on other matters, with U.S. officials downplaying the chance of a breakthrough in ongoing security talks and ruling out the prospect of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians before Obama leaves office in 14 months… Monday's meeting will also be clouded by the controversy following Netanyahu's appointment of a new spokesman who has spoken derisively about Obama. Ran Baratz, a conservative commentator, has suggested in Facebook posts that Obama is anti-Semitic and Secretary of State John Kerry cannot be taken seriously."

On the trail

Hillary Clinton files to be on the New Hampshire ballot and stumps in the Granite State… Donald Trump holds a rally in Springfield, IL… Marco Rubio has a pre-debate rally in Wisconsin… Jeb Bush, also in Wisconsin, appears with Scott Walker at a school-choice event… And John Kasich holds a pre-debate rally in Chicago.

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