[UPDATE: Carson has now come out with an anecdote about how he once had a gun put in his ribs, presumably to demonstrate his coolness under threat. Not only does the story not reflect well on him (he told the gunman to aim at someone else), frankly it sounds bogus to me. I wonder if any reporter will try and track down the actual event.]
In an interview that Carson gave with Kai Ryssdal of the radio program Marketplace (you can read the transcript or listen to the full interview here) Carson revealed that he is an even bigger nonsense spouter than Donald Trump. He made grandiose claims for what he would do while speaking in only the vaguest generalities about how he would actually do them. He wants a balanced budget amendment. He says that you can get a balanced budget by having across the board cuts of 3% in government to ‘get rid of the fat’ (though if that is also applied to Social Security payments and Medicare that would be political dynamite, while if not, the cuts elsewhere would have to be much larger), lowering taxes to a flat value of about 15% (which everyone agrees would reduce revenues by at least 25%), while vastly increasing spending on the military (so that the US can achieve space and military domination).
Ryssdal was polite but persistent and tried to pin Carson down on details but it soon became clear that Carson is all smoke and mirrors. For example, Ryssdal asked Carson three times if he would allow the government to default by not raising the debt ceiling and each time Carson spoke about cutting spending as solving the problem, showing that either he does not even know that the two items are unrelated despite the fact that it has been so much in the news. Ryssdal finally gave up.
But while not even knowing the basic difference between the budget and the debt ceiling, Carson was willing to make the most extravagant promises when it came to spending, especially on the military. Here is what he says:
“Also, recognizing that if we get defense wrong, nothing else matters, because we live in a hostile world. So you’re going to see our military capabilities improve quite substantially. You’re going to see us really taking care of our veterans rather than just talking about it. Recognizing that we have a 14 percent decrease in people applying for our volunteer military. That’s going to hurt us badly in the long run. You’re going to see us concentrating on our vulnerabilities, like our electrical grid, which is woefully vulnerable right now, from a number of possibilities. You’re going to see us beef up our cyber capabilities substantially, you’re going to see us respond to people who attack us in a way that they will never forget. You’re going to see us get back into space, understanding that so many inventions came out of the space program. We cannot get behind in innovation, and in the future, he who controls space controls the Earth.
You’re going to see much more proactive stance towards someone like Putin, you know, we’re going to be much more active throughout the whole Baltic basin area, Eastern Europe, we’re going to reestablish missile defense program, we’re going to have more than one or two armored brigades in that area. We’re gonna stand up to him, every place in the Middle East, we’re not gonna back down. We’re going to use our energy resources in an appropriate way, get rid of the energy exportation rules uh, that are archaic, put into place in the 1970s. We don’t need those anymore. We’re going to use the EPA to work with business, industry and academia to find the cleanest, most environmentally friendly ways to exploit our tremendous energy resources. We’re going to use those to make Europe dependent on us for energy rather than Putin, put him back in his little box where he belongs. We’re going to be taking a whole geopolitical strategy that is proactive, and not reactive.”
At the end, Ryssdal asked, “And just so I’m clear, you’re going to do this while balancing the budget, not raising the debt and cutting the size of the government?” and when Carson said yes, Ryssdal said “ok” with a clearly incredulous tone.
But that is not all. Carson’s comments on the Oregon shooting are also signs that he is someone with a wildly inflated opinion of himself, another characteristic he shares with Donald Trump. When mass shootings happen, it is natural for people to wonder how they would have reacted if they had been among the people in such a situation. This is not in itself a bad thing since in the remote event that it does happen, you might be able to do something to survive. Pretending to be already dead is one thing that struck me from the survivor’s stories
But sometimes people see themselves like action film stars and think that they would take bold and decisive action and save everyone by bringing down the gunman. Most sensible people keep such fantasies to themselves because we know that they are absurd and self-aggrandizing and that in a real crisis, most people are terrified and panic and do not behave in the calm, calculated way that Bruce Willis does in films.
But Ben Carson seems to think that he is made of sterner stuff and that the many people who were killed and injured were contemptible wimps who could have saved themselves and others if they had behaved bravely like he would have done.
In an appearance on Fox News Tuesday, Carson – a retired neurosurgeon currently performing strongly in the polls and with fundraisers – was asked to put himself in the shoes of someone approached by a gunman and asked to declare his or her faith.
“I’m glad you asked that question,” Carson said. “Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.’” Then Carson smiled and chuckled.
And he told a Facebook Q&A on Monday that although he had removed many bullets from bodies as a doctor, the right to bear arms took precedence over potential danger. “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away,” he said.
This idea that the deaths of people don’t bother him as much as the idea of people losing their guns did not sit well with the loved ones of the victims.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years now and those were some of the ugliest comments that I’ve ever heard,” Ladd Everitt, a spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a network of anti-gun groups, said of Carson’s Fox comments.
Everitt, whose organization’s staff includes family members of victims of gun violence, said Carson had “basically blamed the victims for their own deaths” and added to the pain of the victims’ families.
“His suggesting that if he had been there, he could have taken the shooter down through the power of Christ or somehow, it’s just unbelievable,” Everitt said. “You begin to question this man’s mental health, doing this with a smile on his face and thinking it’s acceptable.
“I think it shows how insane Republican politics are at this point in history, how totally insane that they would have that man on, and he’s saying these things and then they’re nodding at him.”
As satirist Andy Borowitz says, Carson also gave advice to the doomed citizens of Pompeii that they should have outrun the lava instead of just lying around helplessly.
In the clip where he made these remarks he once again invoked ‘political correctness’. That seems to be his main platform.
Whenever I see Carson saying such outrageous things, Everitt’s comments above that “You begin to question this man’s mental health, doing this with a smile on his face and thinking it’s acceptable” comes to my mind too. There is something truly weird about the way he calmly and smilingly says the most outlandish things
I am waiting for the moment when Carson responds that the criticisms of him because of his comments and the ignorance and evasiveness he displayed in the Marketplace interview are also because of political correctness.
So why is Carson worse than Trump, even though both display the same characteristics of making extravagant and promises without any idea of how to carry the out? Because while Trump is a rank opportunist, Carson is an ideologue. While opportunists tend to be pragmatic and respond to the situation, ideologues, especially religion-based ones like Carson, will plow ahead irrespective of the facts and whoever gets hurt in the process. Such people are especially dangerous.
It is incredible that Carson and Trump and Carly Fiorina are the ones leading in the Republican race.