Know Your 2016 Presidential Candidate: Ben Carson

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Thu, May 7 - 9:00 am EDT | 3 years ago by
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Ben Carson - Election 2016
Source: Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images

Dr. Ben Carson is the fourth Republican to enter the Presidential race, but the first who isn’t a sitting U.S. Senator. In fact, he has never held elected office and has no other political experience either.

Dr. Carson’s journey to the 2016 race began in 2013 when he was invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast. There, with President Obama sitting just feet away, he ripped into the President’s policies. Dr. Carson later relayed that event organizers claimed the White House was “very upset” and wanted Carson to call and apologize. He elected not to do so.

Prior to the National Prayer Breakfast speech, Dr. Carson was primarily known for his ground-breaking medical career. At age 33 he was the youngest major division director in the history of Johns Hopkins Hospital when he became Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery in 1985. In 1987 he led a 70-member team through a 22-hour, first-of-its-kind surgical procedure to successfully separate conjoined twins connected at the back of the head.

In his autobiography, Gifted Hands, Carson recounts his struggles with anger management during a troubled childhood. Growing up in a single-parent home, he and his brother were frequently in trouble and performing poorly in school. However, his uneducated mother was determined that they have access to better opportunities and began limiting their play time, requiring they read two library books per week and provide her with written reports. Even though she could barely read them, she pretended to study the reports closely before giving her approval. The strict regimen helped Carson discover his love of learning and science. The autobiography was later adapted into a television movie of the same name starring Cuba Gooding Jr.

Because he has not held or even run for elected office in the past, less is known of his views in terms of specifics compared to most other candidates. Nevertheless, his speeches, articles, and interviews have contributed to the following list of positions.

On Healthcare

Dr. Carson is critical of Obamacare, which his campaign website calls a “looming disaster.” He has even said that it is “a bunch of crap” to suggest that Obamacare can’t be undone.

In a Washington Times op-ed, he said that while it’s positive that “many Americans who previously had no insurance were able to obtain insurance through Obamacare … it is bad that they had to obtain their insurance through someone else’s suffering.”

He has not provided much specifics for healthcare reform, but says “we need to remove health care from the political arena and recognize that any government proposals affecting the health of all citizens should be free market-based and should be so appealing that it would not be necessary to force citizens into the program.”

He has offered support for Health Savings Accounts, which his campaign website says will “empower families to make their own decisions about their medical treatment,” and “drive down health care costs while protecting patient choice and freedom.”

They were also featured in his Prayer Breakfast speech:

“Here’s my solution: When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed — pretax — from the time you’re born ’til the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members, so that when you’re 85 years old and you got six diseases, you’re not trying to spend up everything. You’re happy to pass it on and there’s nobody talking about death panels.”

He went on to suggest that for those in need of financial assistance, it should simply be added to their individual HSAs rather than managed by a government bureaucracy.

On Foreign Policy and Security

Given his lengthy medical career and lack of political experience, it’s little surprise that Dr. Carson frankly admits a lack of expertise in foreign affairs. “I’m in the process of acquiring a lot of information,” he has said, while acknowledging, “There’s a lot of material to learn.” Yet he also rejects the idea that a good leader must be an expert in all things, arguing, “if you go to … a very well-run hospital, you’re going to have a president of the hospital or chief administrator. He probably doesn’t know a whole lot about … neurosurgery or pediatric infectious disease. But he knows how to put together a structure where the strength of all those departments work effectively.”

Despite those admissions, he has provided insight into his approach to foreign policy. For instance, he has made a point of criticizing Russia, which his campaign website says is “dangerously belligerent,” and “actively destabilizing Ukraine, endangering Europe in the process and continuing to fuel destabilization in the Middle East.”

On the other hand, in a 2013 interview with The Daily Caller, Carson staked out a more cautious position, expressing opposition to the invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan. On Iraq, he said he wrote President Bush before the war saying, “what I would do is I would use the bully pulpit at this moment of great national unity and, very much in a Kennedy-esque type fashion, say within 10 years we’re going to become petroleum independent.”

He contends that would have scared moderate Arab states into handing over bin Laden and denied terrorists funding. On Afghanistan he said, “I personally would not have [gone to war in Afghanistan] because, you know, you’ve got to look at the history of Afghanistan. You’ve got 300 tribal leaders throughout the country who have never been united in anything so who are you going to negotiate with? How are you going to achieve peace in a situation like that?”

Nevertheless, he maintains that “As the pinnacle nation in the world, we play a critical role in the direction of the world. I think we have to be active.” He also emphasizes the “special relationship with Israel” and says, “We must always stand with Israel and her people.”

On Religious Persecution

In an article for National Review, Dr. Carson warns against “The Spreading Scourge of Christian Persecution.” He describes, “images showing the persecution of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of our fellow brothers and sisters by incomprehensible religious zealots. Their intolerance of Christianity is beyond horrible. People are beheaded for their faith. Women and young girls are sexually violated, and whole families are wantonly slaughtered in cold blood.”

“Governments need to decry such persecution, and root it out wherever and whenever they can,” he concludes.

On Marijuana Legalization

Dr. Carson supports access to marijuana for strictly medical purposes, but warned in an interview against negative consequences of broad legalization. He said, “Medical use of marijuana in compassionate cases has been proven to be useful, but recognize that marijuana is what is known as a gateway drug – a starter for people who move on to heavier duty drugs. I don’t think this is something we really want for our society.”

Dr. Ben Carson
Source: Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images

On Education

On his website Dr. Carson rejects Common Core and praises “local control” as a “bedrock concept” for education. In a 2013 interview with NewsMax, he highlighted the role of school choice and competition in improving educational outcomes. He has also praised the performance of homeschooled children.

On Budget and Taxes

Dr. Carson supports a Balanced Budget Amendment and a flat tax system. He explained in a column, “Many alternative forms of taxation are used throughout the world, but the model that appeals most to me is based on biblical tithing. Under that system, everyone was required to pay one-tenth of their income to the designated authorities of the theocracy. You were not excused if you experienced a crop failure, nor were you asked to pay triple tithes if you had a bumper crop. Under this system, the man with the bumper crop obviously would pay a lot more in tithes than the man who experienced the crop failure.”

He rejects the idea that the rich should be hurt out of fairness, saying, “Instead of trying to decide how much we need to hurt the billionaire, we should be grateful that his contributions are building roads and keeping bridges in good repair proportionately as much as the contributions of hundreds of teachers. Of course, the teachers are making other important contributions to society, and we recognize this by giving everybody the same rights regardless of their financial status. This kind of system can work only if we eliminate loopholes and make it truly fair.”

He also advocates a broader tax base where everyone contributes, arguing that it will encourage government to be more frugal.

On Welfare

Dr. Carson is critical of the “purveyors of dependency,” particularly within the black community. “In today’s culture,” he says, “there are political forces that see the descendants of slaves as useful objects for maintaining their positions of wealth and power. By promising to care for their every need, they create dependency.”

In an interview to the Weekly Standard, he suggested that Martin Luther King Jr. “would’ve been appalled if he were here today to see all these people just sitting around, waiting for housing subsidies and for food stamps and for free health care. What he wanted was equality of opportunity. The last thing that he would be in favor of is redistributing all the wealth and allowing people to just sit around and collect.”

On Marriage

Dr. Carson has said that he doesn’t believe “anyone from any group has the right to redefine a major pillar of society,” but also that “any two consenting adults have the right to formalize a relationship between them.”

On Abortion

His website says unequivocally that Dr. Carson is “unabashedly and entirely pro-life,” arguing that, “Human life begins at conception and innocent life must be protected.” He adds, “As a surgeon, I have operated on infants pre-birth. I can assure you that they are very much alive.”

He also urges support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions – with standard exceptions – after more than 20 weeks.

In a Washington Times op-ed, he explains, “My entire professional life has been devoted to saving and enhancing lives. Thus, the thought of abortion for the sake of convenience does not appeal to me.” But he also cautions that, “It is important to try to understand the emotional state of young women seeking an abortion. Instead of judging and condemning them, we need to provide compassion and support. They need to be provided with easy access to adoption services and information about assistance available to them if they decide to keep the baby.”

He adds, “It is equally, if not more important, to reach these young women before they become pregnant. Forget about those politically correct people who say all lifestyles are equal and inform those young women about the true consequences of out-of-wedlock birth for those who are not financially independent. We need to make sure they understand that they can provide a much better life for themselves and their children when they plan ahead and value themselves appropriately.”

On Immigration

Dr. Carson cites both the economic value of immigration and the importance of securing the border. He also highlights the numerous incentives encouraging illegal immigration such as porous borders, ease of access to fraudulent identification, little fear of deportation due to inconsistent enforcement, as well as easy access to health care, jobs, welfare, and public schools. He notes, “Any discussion of immigration reform should include bipartisan solutions to these inducements.”

Carson says we should look to Canada as an example, where “They have a guest worker program, which allows people to enter the country as officially recognized guest workers who pay taxes, receive benefits, and are able to come and go as they please without infringing on anyone else’s rights.”

He also says, “There is much that can be learned from security personnel in prisons and other secured facilities, and there is a great deal of smart technology that could be employed to achieve secure borders. It is a matter of will rather than ability.”

On Energy and the Environment

Dr. Carson has called for expanding energy exploration as a means to preserve peace and grow the economy. He says, “[T]o use climate change as an excuse not to develop our God-given resources makes little sense. Expanding our wealth of energy resources, as well as encouraging development of new renewable energy sources, can provide an enormous economic lift with obvious benefits, but it can also bolster our role as a formidable player in the struggle for world leadership.”

He also notes, “Many advocates of common sense are also very concerned about the environment but are reasonable enough to realize that rather than using Environmental Protection Agency regulations to stifle abundant energy production, we can use the EPA in conjunction with the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to produce and export a vast amount of clean energy.”

On Gun Rights

His website notes, “The 2nd Amendment is a central pillar of our Constitution,” and, “The right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms is fundamental to our liberty.”

In a speech to the National Rifle Association, he said, “Let me make it absolutely clear that I am extremely pro-Second Amendment,” he said. “I will never let anyone tamper with that right.”

Read more about Election 2016.

This report is for informational purposes only. Nothing within should be construed as endorsement by the author of either the candidate or his positions on the issues.


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