Right Wing News Interviews Dr. Ben Carson
John Hawkins gets to the bottom of Ben Carson's positions on immigration, gun control and race, and even finds out what his favorite music is.
Last week, I was pleased to get an opportunity to interview Dr. Ben Carson in Myrtle Beach, SC. What follows is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Q. Now I wasn’t going to get into this, but before we got started, I was listening to you talk about your surgeries. A lot of people know you’re a surgeon and they know you’re supposed to be good, but they don’t know how good you are. I think you did the first separation of Siamese twins, too, right?
A. Joined at the back of the head, yeah.
Q. Give us a breakdown of some of your accomplishments.
Well, actually I’ve done several separations. I did the first intrauterine shunt on a hydrocephalic friend. I pioneered the (surgery) for dwarfs. Seventy percent of them used to die. There was a lot of controversy around that because many of the traditional people thought that the surgery was worse than the disease — but we actually figured out a way to do it that was extremely safe and it is used around the world now. We pioneered several cranial facial techniques (for people) with congenital defects. So there were a lot of things that were going on, including operating on brain stem tumors which people said were inoperable … so we sort of moved the dial in all of those areas.
Q. Okay, now the biggest knock I hear on your candidacy is that you may be a brilliant guy, but you don’t have a lot of experience in politics. So in a crowded field, I think a lot of people may be saying, “Well, I like Ben Carson a lot, but why should I take a gamble on a novice when there are some blue-chip conservative candidates with experience in the race?” What do you say to the people who make that argument?
A. I would say, let’s attend to the salesman who comes in and says, “I’m the only one who can sell you a product that works. Nobody else has anything that can work.” And, you know, we’ve already been using his products and they haven’t worked. So why should we now say that’s what works.
What I would much rather think about is someone who has a track record of solving problems and someone who has had a lot of experience in the corporate world and knows how things that work efficiently work … someone who’s had the experience to be able to start a national non-profit that has become incredibly successful in all 50 states. You know those are very difficult things to do. I would say probably a lot more difficult than being a public official.
Q. Now I’m hoping you can clarify your Second Amendment stance a bit in regard to semi-automatic weapons. Do you think we need any new gun laws to curtail those or do you think the current laws we have in place are sufficient? And also as a follow-up, are there any gun laws you’d like to see taken off the books or added to the books?
A. Well, first of all we need to understand that the Second Amendment is there for a reason. It’s a very important part of our freedom. We’ve been armed for hundreds of years and we’ve been free for hundreds of years. So that’s something that is invaluable. We absolutely cannot mess with the Second Amendment.
In terms of the kinds of weapons that people should be allowed to have … if you can purchase the weapon legally, then you should be able to have it. I don’t think there should be any restrictions on that. A lot of people have misinterpreted something I said. I said, “If you live in a crowded area and your weapon is likely to fall into the hands of a crazy person, I would prefer you not have it.” Well, I think anybody, if they really stop and think about it, would prefer that they not have it if it’s likely to fall into the hands of a crazy person. It doesn’t mean that I think that people in inner cities shouldn’t also participate fully in the Second Amendment.
Q. Now on immigration, I was a little confused. I was checking on it last night and reading in-depth on it. On one hand, I read a quote from you that seemed to suggest we should stop cracking down on illegal aliens who are already in the country and give them citizenship. However, you also seem to talk of a Canadian guest worker-oriented approach which would seem to suggest that we can get the borders under control and give illegals guest worker status. Can you clarify a little bit where you stand on the issue, and also, do you think we need to secure our border first or should we have a more comprehensive immigration approach?
A. I think there are two things that have to be done. You have to secure the borders and I mean all the borders, not just the southern borders — northern borders, too, because it’s not just people from Honduras we’re worried about. It’s terrorists and I think that’s urgent and I think it can be done within a year.
And then you have to turn off the spigot for all the goodies — the things that attract them here. If you seal the borders and turn off the goodies, there won’t be any reason for them to risk life and limb to come here. So I think that will stop the influx. You still have the 11 million people here, many of whom don’t know any other place. This is the only place they know; so, yes, we have to be compassionate in that sense of understanding that we should allow them to become guest workers. They can become guest workers if they enroll in the back tax program and continue to pay taxes forward. It does not mean citizenship; it does not mean voting rights. If they want those things, they have to get in the back of the line and go through the process like everybody else because you have to pay homage to the people who have done it the right way. You can’t just kick them to the curb.
Q. So — and just one further question on that: would you do that in a comprehensive fashion or would you think we need to do the security part first before we start discussing what happens to the people that are here?
A. Security has to be done urgently. That’s because there are people out there who want to destroy us and there are dirty bombs and all kinds of things they can be smuggling, you know; we need to be very serious about this. I’m not sure that some people actually understand the threat that we’re under.
Q. Okay, the Republican Party has done a terrible job overall of reaching out to black Americans. If the head of the RNC, Reince Preibus, came up to you and asked for advice on how the party could do a better job, what would you tell him?
A. I would say you’ve got to talk to them. You’re not going to do a better job by not talking to them. So I’d go out and explain to them what the Republican Party actually stands for. It wants people to move up. Romney did not articulate that very well. He just talked about the 47%. He didn’t talk about the ladder that allows you to climb out of there. So that’s what the party actually endorses.
But if nobody knows this, it doesn’t do any good. So I would tell them you’ve got to get out there big time and talk about investing in people and talk about ways that that can be done — and how the party is going to work with business, industry, academia, Wall Street, churches, and community groups to get them to take the lead in terms of personal and interpersonal interactions because that’s what actually brings people out of poverty. Trillions of dollars thrown at the problem since the 60s has done nothing to alleviate the situation.
Q. You did mention Mitt there; so let me ask you, how do you look at his campaign? What do you think he did wrong — because in John McCain’s defense, as unpopular as Bush was, he had a very, very tough job. But a lot of people thought Mitt had a very winnable race and he lost. When you look back at his campaign, what do you think, I mean do you think he made the right kind of case? Is there something you think he should have done differently?
A. I think he perhaps got some bad advice in terms of the 47%. He should have never let that rest. He should have said, “But if I become President, job number one is to make sure that people can climb out of that 47% and move into the fabric of success of their nation.” I think that would have gone a long way. I think he capitulated on the economy, the narrative that it was getting much better — and he should have utilized graphics as necessary to show that it wasn’t getting better and that the labor force participation rate was going down and what that meant. He needed to explain that to people. He didn’t put on his teacher hat to teach people what the real facts are. Then he had a gift-wrapped present in Benghazi and didn’t use it. After Hurricane Sandy, he just like disappeared for a week at a critical time. So I mean those are big issues right there.
Q. Now, you said something interesting about Affirmative Action and let me quote you, “The real question is this: Who should receive extra consideration from a nation that has a tradition of cheering for the underdog? I believe underdog status is not determined any longer by race. Rather, it is the circumstances of one’s life that should be considered.” How would Affirmative Action look if Ben Carson were in charge of it?
A. Well, I don’t call it Affirmative Action. I call it compassionate action and it simply means, you’ve got two people applying for college admission. One of them is my son and he has a 4.0 average and perfect SAT scores — and one of them is from Appalachia and he has a 3.8 grade point average, still pretty good – and he has close to perfect scores, but he’s in the 95thpercentile, but not the 100. His father was killed in the coal mines when he was five. He’s been working all this time and still manages to accumulate that kind of a record. I’m willing to give him some extra consideration, but it shouldn’t have anything to do with race. It should have to do with circumstances and everything in our nation should deal with circumstances and not with race. If we continue to do the race-based thing, we will never get out of this, ever, and we need to move on.
Q. Let me ask you about a couple of issues that have been in the news lately: the NSA having access to American phone records and the secret TPA trade deal that’s been voted on in Congress despite the fact that the public isn’t being given access to the details. Where do you stand on those issues? What do you think about the NSA and the trade deal?
Well, the NSA should not be able to violate the 4th Amendment. I just feel that is 100% wrong, particularly given the fact that they can get a search warrant any time day or night if they have suspicion about somebody — but to invade ordinary Americans’ privacy, I am 100% against that.
A. As far as TPA, I’m for free trade, but I’m not for secrecy and so I personally would have gone back and re-worked that thing — because Congress needs to recognize that they work for us — the people. We don’t work for them. They don’t get to hide stuff like that from us. It just doesn’t make any sense and it’s part of the problem that Thomas Jefferson talked about. He said if the people become less vigilant, the government will simply continue to expand, take over every aspect of our life, dominate us, and eventually we will turn into something else. We’re on the way there. We’ve got to stop it.
Q. Now you have a lot of real world healthcare experience; so if you became President, what would your approach to Obamacare and healthcare in general be?
A. I would want care to be in the hands of patients and the healthcare providers. That’s why I’ve advocated the health savings accounts. Health savings accounts are talked about in the Affordable Care Act, but only in a small area and it’s to limit them — because I think they realize that this would be the major competition for Obamacare and they limit everything that would be major competition; doctors, hospitals, all those things, can’t do them anymore.
I would advocate a health savings account for everyone on the day they were born and keep it until the day they die. We pay for it with the same dollars that we pay for routine healthcare now except it wouldn’t be as expensive. And you give people the ability to shift money within a family. So it basically makes every family their own insurance company. It gives you enormous flexibility to cover almost anything and since everything is coming out of your HSA, the cost of your catastrophic insurance is going to drop dramatically. Of course, that works great for most people.
What about the indigent? Well, how do we take care of them now? Medicaid, Medicaid budget $400 to $500 billion a year; about one-quarter of our population partakes. That’s 80 million into $400 billion goes 5,000 times. Five thousand dollars for each man, woman, and child — you can do a lot with that. Concierge practices generally cost $2,000 to $3,000 a year. Then you’ve got thousands left over to buy catastrophic insurance, which is much cheaper now because every family is its own insurance company; it makes people much more concerned about each other’s health. If you’re smoking like a chimney, your family members are going to be saying, “How come you’re doing that?”
Some people say the indigent wouldn’t be able to handle a health savings account because they’re too stupid. A lot of people in government like to make that claim. It’s not true, of course, because they said that about food stamps. They said they wouldn’t be able to handle those, said they’d go out and buy steak for five days and then be starving the rest of the month — and they didn’t do that. They learned how to manage it and they would learn how to do this also.
When somebody has a chronic disease like diabetes and they have a foot ulcer, they’re not going to go to the emergency room and blow a bunch of money. They’re going to go to the clinic where it costs one-fifth the amount, get the same treatment — but at the clinic, instead of sending them out, they say, “Let’s get your diabetes under control so you’re not back here in three weeks with another problem.” A whole new level of savings begins to occur, and a whole new level of responsibility. Any government program should be aimed at creating responsibility and not dependency.
Q. So with Obamacare, Barack Obama has repeatedly changed Obamacare without the input of Congress. If Democrats control the Senate in 2016 and you are President, which is a possibility, would you repeal the law even without the approval of the Senate?
A. Well, that wouldn’t be my first tactic. My first tactic would be to sit down and talk with people. That’s the big problem. We get in our respective corners and we put up defenses and we may, in many cases, actually want the same thing. That was one of the things that was really attractive about Obama when he was running in 2008. He said those things, but of course, he was just the opposite. He didn’t want to do anything except my way or the highway, but I believe it’s possible for us to actually work together. I would always go that route first.
Q. And I have one last question for you. This is kind of a tough one. What do you listen to music-wise? What’s on your mp3 player? What are your favorite bands?
A. Classical songs, classical music.
A. I got involved with classical music when I was in high school and it’s followed me throughout my entire life and probably had a profound effect on my life because my wife is a classical violinist. When all of the residents would take pediatric neurosurgery, they knew also that they would learn classical music during that time. It was fun.
Q. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Reprinted with permission from Right Wing News.