September 12, 2015

Ben Carson, Humanitarian

Dr. Ben Carson
Dr. Ben Carson
Dr. Ben Carson has lately been rising in the polls judging the popularity of Republican presidential candidates. This is somewhat surprising, given the limited press coverage of the candidate. One suspects that his popularity is largely a function of his keeping his mouth shut and not acting like a raving lunatic when he does choose to speak.

It would be easy to conclude that the retired pediatric neurosurgeon is a thoughtful, compassionate conservative. That would be a mistake. He is instead just another standard-issue, right-wing, social Darwinist Republican ideologue.

What leads me to this conclusion is an interview with the candidate broadcast this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition Saturday. The interviewer was Scott Simon. I was struck by this interchange:
Simon: How many Syrian refugees would you admit to the United States if you were President now?
Carson: Well, we have to recognize that this is a splendid opportunity for the global jihadist so infiltrate those numbers with members of their own organization. So we would have to have in place a very excellent screening mechanism. Until we had such a mechanism in place, we should not be bringing anybody in.
Simon: Wouldn’t a lot of innocent people be left to die?
Carson: You know, my point not being that I don’t want to be compassionate. I would love to bring everybody here and just take care of everybody. It would be wonderful. But the fact of the matter is we can’t do it.
Simon: Well, which leads me to restate the question, and I’ll grant it as a premise you can get a rigorous checking program in place. How many Syrian refugees would you admit if you were President?
Carson: I would admit people that we need—people that can boost our economy based on their skills and what they bring in. And I don’t know what that number is.
In this exchange, Carson was asked about how he would respond to a current humanitarian crisis. His immediate response was to offer an excuse for doing nothing—we need to screen out jihadists, he says. When presented with the hypothetical that the jihadist threat had been countered, Carson seemed like a great humanitarian: “I would love to bring everybody here and just take care of everybody. It would be wonderful.” Be he quickly added, without explanation: “But the fact of the matter is we can’t do it.” Why not, one might ask. Would it be too expensive? Would it be too disruptive? Carson didn’t say.

Remarkably, Carson then changed the subject of what we can do for the unfortunate thousands fleeing war and chaos in their homelands to what we can do for ourselves. Carson doesn’t give a fig about most of the refugees; he is only interested in those who can make an immediate contribution to the American economy. So much for wanting to take care of everybody.

Is this the kind of humanitarian we want to put in the White House? I think not.


  1. I think his recent rise in the polls probably is just his turn being a bit less goofy than Trump. I doubt it signifies much.

  2. An article from a few months ago about Carson’s views is here.

  3. The New York Times recently published a column by Charles M. Blow providing more reasons not to like Carson as a presidential candidate.


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