Dr. Ben Carson was born on September 18, 1951, in a poverty-stricken section of Detroit where he and his brother Curtis were raised by a single mom who worked two or three jobs at a time to keep a roof over their heads. Nevertheless, he managed to beat the odds and make it out of the ‘hood to pursue his dream of becoming a physician.
Dr. Carson recently retired after a groundbreaking 35-year career as the director of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins hospital. Among his many accolades is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
He is also the author of nine books, including his latest, A More Perfect Union, which he co-wrote with his wife, Candy. Here, he talks about that as well as his campaign for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Hi Dr. Carson, I’m honored to have another opportunity to speak with you, especially at the height of the political campaign.
My pleasure, Kam.
I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, and I received way more questions than we’d ever be able to get to. I’ll be mixing theirs in with some of my own.
Patricia says: I loved your last book, You Have A Brain. What is the main message you wish to convey with this new book?
Most Americans know we have a Constitution, but relatively few people know what’s in it, or the history behind it. That wasn’t always the case. There was a time when we taught Civics and people actually studied the Constitution. Still, the Constitution is the document which actually defines our liberties and defines the role of government. And it also constrains the government, because of its tendency to grow, concentrate and dominate the people. Furthermore, our Founders said that our system and our freedoms are based upon a well-educated populace. They warned that, if we ever became other than that, the nature of the country would quickly change. So, I’m trying to prevent the nature of the country from changing.
Patricia was also wondering whether the Hippocratic Oath you took as a physician to “do no harm” creates an ethical conflict for you as a President who might have to declare war?
No, it doesn’t any more so than the oath creates a conflict for a surgeon who has to cut out a tumor to save a patient’s life. Sometimes, you have to remove whatever is bad in order to promote general health and preserve what’s good.
Patricia’s last question is: If you become president, what would you do to support aging Baby Boomers, since so many have lost their jobs and homes and/or their health and have even ended up homeless or on welfare?
The way we help everybody is by fixing the economy. The economy is a terrible drag on everything, including Social Security benefits. Everything is affected by it. If we can eliminate the unnecessary regulations, and I stress the word “unnecessary,” and fix the tax code so that we create an environment that is conducive to the entrepreneurial enterprise and capital investment, that will enable the boats of everybody to rise, including Baby Boomers.
The next question is about the issue of anchor babies. Do you think the 14th Amendment should be changed to eliminate birthright citizenship?
I don’t think it has to be changed, because the fifth clause stipulates that the legislative branch has the power to interpret that amendment. They simply need to interpret it as not being meant to allow anyone who’s here illegally to be able to have a baby and then claim citizenship for it.
Would you support a Constitutional amendment to protect the rights of the unborn?
Felicia asks: Which of the five tenets of Islam would you ask a Muslim presidential candidate to give up in order to garner your vote?
Are you aware that Sharia law has changed with the times just as much as the Constitution has changed which once considered blacks 3/5ths of a person? If they accept Sharia law, then I want them to show me where that change in Sharia law eliminates the disparities in the ways they treat women and gays, and how it has changed their tolerance of other religions. I’m always willing to listen, but show me where those attitudes have changed.
Maddy asks: Do you perceive your calm demeanor to be an asset to your campaign, or is it something that your aides have tried to get you to alter?
There have been some people who think I should change who I am, but I’m not going to do that. I am who I am, and it seems to be resonating with a lot of people. It’s not really a matter of how loud you shout, it’s a matter of what you accomplish, and what has your life been like, which means a lot more than what you say it was like.
Maddy has a follow-up: How much experience in foreign affairs does a president need to effectively manage our international relations? And do you feel that you have, or will be able to attain, that amount of experience?
I think what’s most important is that you have wisdom, and that you surround yourself with experts. I don’t think anyone who’s running for President right now is an expert on Soviet affairs, or on Korea or the Middle East. Yet, we have access to experts, so what’s important is to make wise decisions.
Maddy also says: You frequently refer to the “ways that recent Presidents, Congresses and Courts have threatened [our] democracy.” What do you view as the greatest current threat to our democracy?
I’d say the biggest threat to us right now is giving up our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression, and allowing completely insane things to occur in our society.
Grace asks: What would be your #1 priority after being sworn in as President?
First, I’d call for a joint session of Congress to make sure they understand that we serve the people, that the people don’t serve us, and that everything we do is going to be oriented towards re-establishing the people at the pinnacle of the government.
Nick asks: Why should people of color vote for you or any Republican? Marilyn has a similar question. She points out that Mitt Romney only garnered 17% of the entire minority vote in 2012. What is the Republican Party doing to attract more non-white voters, particularly African-Americans?
I think it is incumbent upon the Republican Party to go out into non-traditional neighborhoods, as I’ve been doing, to talk about how people can become empowered as opposed to remaining in a dependent position. 50 or 60 years of the progressive ideology has not resulted in the improvement of the position of the black community. In fact, it has deteriorated. I want to demonstrate how we can use education and how we can use resources more effectively by turning dollars over two or three times in the community as a way of creating wealth. I also want to show how having a baby out-of-wedlock usually terminates the mother’s education and sends the child into a spiral of poverty. These are the kinds of issues which must be talked about and must be dealt with, and I’ve been on the forefront of that.
Nick also asks: What do you attribute your rise in the polls to?
I attribute it to common sense, my talking about issues that are relevant to the American people, and to my being a non-politician. People are tired of all the political speak.
Reggie asks: Why do you often use slavery to make analogies to current issues, like when you suggested that Obamacare was the worst thing that happened to African-Americans since slavery?
Because I think most people miss the implications of Obamacare, and I wanted to dramatically bring what’s going on to their attention. What you have is a situation where the country is supposed to always be of, by and for the people with the government functioning as facilitator of our interests. But with Obamacare, the government reversed it, and said, “This is what we’re doing. We don’t care what you think. If you don’t like it, too bad.” That now puts the government in the driver’s seat, and the people in a dependent position which the Founders never intended. That fundamentally changes the character of America. And, if we accept that, it will only be the beginning of some pretty dramatic changes.
Robin asks: What plans do you have to reverse the high African-American incarceration rate, if elected president?
For one thing, we need to reconsider why we incarcerate non-violent criminals in the same facilities as violent ones. That really provides them a “university” where they can learn how to be professional criminals who are dangerous to society. Non-violent offenders still need to pay for the crimes they committed and to be rehabilitated, but we need to be thinking about prisons in a very, very different way.
Kevin asks: What is your plan for the inner cities? How would you help people who are stuck in the cycle of poverty to move up the ladder?
Well, for one, we need to get the economy moving again. One of the ways is to recognize that we have the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. We need to bring back the over $2.1 trillion dollars overseas which won’t come back as long as we have that high corporate tax rate. What I would do is declare a six-month hiatus on those taxes, so that that money could be repatriated. And I would only require that 10% of it be invested in enterprise zones to create jobs for unemployed people on Welfare. That would, by far, be the biggest job stimulus for the poor.
Wesley asks: What are you looking for in a running mate?
I would be looking for someone who has the same philosophy as I do. I don’t think like a politician. Most politicians would think, “Which running mate could bring me this or that constituency?” I don’t think that way at all, and I probably never will.
Wesley says: Dr. Carson, you have implied we the people need to stand up and protest and register our displeasure. However, with the ongoing privatization of what used to be public areas, and a law enforcement that literally bans protests, how do you envision citizens being able to rise up and make their voices heard when we are typically being stopped?
Very simply, by informing yourself of who your representatives are, of how they are voting, determining whether they’re really representing your point of view, and communicating with them. That’s how you make yourself heard.
Larry has a medical question. He says: The neurosurgeons I know devote a good part of their practice to removing tumors. Is there anything we should be doing as a nation to prevent brain cancer?
We don’t know what causes brain cancer, so I guess the best that we can do is continue to do the research that will help us discover them.
Steve asks: When was the last time you personally felt the effects of racism?
The last time I looked at a newspaper and read what the progressives are saying about me.
Steve is also wondering whether your religious faith might affect your ability to honor the separation of church and state?
I don’t see any reason why it would. When our Constitution was created, it was put together by men who, for the most part, had a Judeo-Christian foundation, and they put it together in a way which was consistent with their Judeo-Christian values.
Mirah asks: Do you really believe that personal gun ownership would have prevented Kristallnacht from happening in Nazi Germany?
I never said that it would. I said that it would have been a lot more difficult to happen, if people had been armed. That’s the very reason why they disarmed them first.
Mirah also says: I agree with your statement that many people conceived in rape or incest have gone on to lead good lives, but does that warrant forcing a woman to carry a child conceived in such a way against her will? That could scar her for life. It’s like giving the victim of a crime a nine-month prison sentence.
No, it’s honoring the sanctity of life. What we have to battle against is adopting a culture of death and destruction when, in fact, life is what we should be celebrating in the culture. That doesn’t mean that the woman has to keep that baby. But I know some tremendous people who were conceived from rape.
Jennifer says: Dr. Carson, given the GOP’s stand on employment discrimination and access to bathrooms, why do you think Transgender Republicans like myself and other members of the LGBT community should still consider voting Republican?
Just because you belong to that community, doesn’t mean you can’t exercise common sense. Common sense would dictate that there are a lot of people who would not be comfortable with a transgendered person in their bathroom. Therefore, let’s come up with an alternative that works for everybody, rather than just a solution that works for the transgendered individual.
Miv says: Millions of hard-working Americans have to endure a lot of inequities. Do you agree that they just don’t know what a bad deal they’re getting?
Knowledge is power. There’s no question about that. Our Founders indicated that the more educated the populace, the freer, which is why we concentrate on getting information to the people.
Marcia asks what you think about the case of Henrietta Lacks and how her family has not received any compensation despite the enormous value of her cancer cells to the medical and pharmaceutical industries?
I think it would have been appropriate to compensate her family, since her cells obviously had a tremendously positive effect on cancer research, and it just seems like the fair thing to do.
William says: On March 12, 2014, you said the United States is “very much like Nazi Germany.” Would you mind clarifying what you meant by that?
What I said is that the most of the people of Nazi Germany did not share Hitler’s beliefs, and yet they didn’t say anything. They kept their mouths shut. And that was one of the things that facilitated the rise of the Third Reich. The point I was making is that we must not fall into the same trap by permitting political correctness to intimidate us into being afraid to express our actual beliefs. Another thing I alluded to was the Nazi misuse of government agencies, which happened here with the IRS. So, we have to be careful. I didn’t say that we are like them yet. I was issuing a warning that if we don’t take heed, we could very easily move in that direction.
Ilene asks: Do you regret directing the robber at Popeye’s restaurant to the cashier, when he tried to stick you up?
No, the Left has tried to turn that into a big deal. But the fact of the matter is that, if you’re a customer and a robber mistakes you for the clerk of the store, it would be stupid not to point out the person who could open the cash register. That’s a completely different situation than the Oregon shooting where the gunman was there to kill everyone. In that scenario, of course you’d defend them. Anybody who can’t understand the difference between the two situations is a moron.
Finally, what’s in your wallet?
A desire to save this country for future generations. I want to afford the children longevity and quality of life. I see a lot of things happening right now that are jeopardizing that, and I want to do everything I can to preserve the country.