HH: I’m so pleased to welcome back Dr. Ben Carson, who himself was a recipient of quite a wonderful reception here at CCU last month. Dr. Carson, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
BC: Thank you, nice to be with you again.
HH: First headline of the day, the new Monmouth poll shows that you have hit fourth place behind Ted Cruz at 24%, Donald Trump at 19%, Marco Rubio at 17%, and Ben Carson at 13%. Are you alarmed by this, or putting it down to the ups and downs of polls?
BC: Well, you know, people asked me when I was doing very well, and I say the same thing as when you’re not doing as well. Polls go up and down. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And you know, we’ve had a lot of Earth-shattering events that have occurred recently, and you know, it will require time for people to actually listen to what I’m saying about the security of our nation and about foreign policy rather than to make assumptions.
HH: Now you’ve just completed one trip to burnish your foreign policy credentials. Are there others in the offing, Dr. Carson?
BC: Yeah, I will be making a trip to Africa. I have a tendency to like to see things firsthand. So you know, I went down to the Arizona border, went to Ferguson, when to Baltimore. You know, I tend to make a much bigger impression, so by going over to Jordan and actually talking to the Syrians themselves, and really getting their perspective on things, very different from what we hear in the media. And it makes a difference. And I think we need to make decisions based on real information as opposed to filtered information.
HH: When and where are you going to be going in Africa?
BC: Going to go to Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia.
HH: Why those three, and when are you going, Dr.?
BC: Leaving on the 27th of this month. Well, you know, I think a lot of our policy in the future is going to affect Africa, but those three in particular because my ancestors are from the Kenya-Tanzania region, the Turkana tribe. I’ve had all of that traced back. To Nigeria, I want to get an ideal from the people what the effects of Boko Haram are, what people are thinking, to see what the economic situation is there, and also there’s a medical school there named after me which I want to visit.
HH: And Zambia?
BC: And Zambia, because the twins, the Banda twins are there. We separated them. They were joined at the top of the head facing in opposite directions almost 18 years ago, and this is the year they graduate from high school.
BC: And they’re the first complexly joined twins that have ever turned out to be neurologically detached.
HH: If you leave on the 27th, two days after Christmas, when will you be returning?
BC: We’ll be gone for about a week.
HH: You’re going to miss all the bowl games, Dr. Carson.
BC: (laughing) Well, you know, I’m sure I’ll be able to get information on the internet about what’s going on.
HH: Would you like to declare your favorite in the Ohio State-Notre Dame contest right now?
BC: But do recognize that I did grow up in Michigan.
HH: I know. That’s why, that’s unfortunate, and I am glad that Michigan again lost to Ohio State. I wasn’t going to bring that up, but I bring that, I have a young friend who runs a mission in Kenya, www.arriveinkenya.com, and as you know, a lot of Americans go to Kenya and go to those places to bring help and sustenance. Do you think the private development of Africa or the public-private development of Africa ought to take precedence. George W. pushed a lot of money into Africa, and was very proud of that program. How do you think that balance ought to be, Dr. Carson?
BC: Well, you know, I think what we did, you know, particularly with the AIDS program in Africa was outstanding. You know, I know some of the things that have been found in Rwanda with their coffee in the way that it has really boosted the economy there, created things for people. I know some of our companies have gone to Cameroon and, you know, developed millions of acres of very, very fertile land, made great profits because of the things they were able to produce, but also built the infrastructure of that country and provided jobs for people there and teach people there major ag business so they can carry it on themselves. And those people tend to be much more friendly toward the United States, and that beats the heck out of borrowing billions of dollars from China, paying the interest on it, and then giving it to people as foreign aid. So you know, that’s the kind of private initiatives I think will really not only benefit Africa, but it will benefit us as well.
HH: Well, if you need a stop in Kenya, I’ll fix you up with Brian at www.arriveinkenya.com. It’s out in the middle of nowhere. It’s not in the capital, but a lot of great Americans do a lot of great work in those places, so I compliment you on that. Will the press be accompanying you on this trip? There was criticism of the Jordan trip that you did not take the media. Will they be accompanying you on this trip?
BC: Yes, there will be some press.
HH: Okay, that’s terrific. And let me ask you about Nigeria. Boko Haram, of course, is an agent of Islamic terrorism which struck America last week. Do you think American ground troops ought to be committed in Nigeria if they are requested by the Nigerian president to assist in the eradication of Boko Haram?
BC: If the president asked for it, I would certainly be willing to sit down and talk with him about various alternatives. I think we would be smart to look at what our recommendations would be rather than just, you know, totally giving in to what someone asked for just because they’re asking for it. You know, by the same token, you know, when we look in the Middle East and we see what’s going on and what’s worked effectively, it has been using our Special Ops people in conjunction with the people who are already there, you know, particularly in Northern Iraq, the Kurds and parts of Syria. You know, those are the things that work, and maybe we can work with some of the government troops in Nigeria with our Special Ops people and various tactical advantages, which would help tremendously rather than committing a bunch of American troops to this effort.
HH: In the area where the Islamic State has now nested and grown to become a lethal danger to everyone in the world, do you support additional American ground troops in Kurdistan or in our allied nations like Jordan and Saudi Arabia to assist them as well in the fight against Islamic State?
BC: Again, you know, I think all of these things are up for discussion, but bear in mind, you know, these people have a vested interest in keeping themselves safe. And one of the reasons, I think, that we haven’t seen a groundswell of support for our efforts in the Middle East is because people can’t be 100% sure that we will really stick to our commitments. I mean, we turn our backs on friends like Israel, so what do they think? So they’re sitting on the fence, because they don’t want to commit to something that we’re doing just to have us turn our backs on them and then they get the full brunt of ISIS. That’s not going to be helpful to them. So one of the things that we have to do quickly, I think, with the next administration, because I don’t think this one’s going to do it, is you know, we have to begin to shore up the relationships that we allowed to languish, you know, both in Europe and the Middle East, virtually every place around the world. No one respects us anymore, no one trusts us anymore or what we have to say. And that being the backdrop of any negotiations we have puts us in a very weak position.
HH: At the same time that we waffle, and I want to talk to you about the President’s speech in a moment, Putin is pushing forward. I asked Donald Trump that, this question last week. I want to ask you, Dr. Carson. If Putin’s forces in Syria accidentally or intentionally bring down a carrier-based F-18 or a ground-based A-10 flying near them in Syria, what would Dr. Carson’s response be as president to a Russian shoot down of an American airplane?
BC: Well, you know, obviously, the first response is to investigate and find out what happened, and hear their explanation, and look at the facts, Hugh. You always want to look at the facts before you jump into some type of confrontation. If, in fact, it can be verified that they intentionally shot down one of our planes and we were not at fault, then you begin to look at the array of retaliatory measures that can be taken.
HH: All right, Dr. Carson, I want to turn to the President’s remarks last night. He went on prime time on a Sunday night. That’s the highest level of use of the Oval Office. He’s only done it, I believe, three times, and he spoke a lot about gun control specifically. Cut number two, here’s what he said about the no fly list.
BO: Here at home, we have to work together to address the challenge. There are several steps that Congress should take right away. To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terror suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.
HH: Dr. Carson, do you agree with him?
BC: Of course not. Now if the no fly list was done in an appropriate way, then I could understand what he’s saying. But as you well know, there are many people on the no fly list, they don’t even know they’re on the no fly list. Many others, you know, outstanding American citizens, have no idea why they’re on the list. And even when it can be verified that they shouldn’t be on the list, it takes them years to get off the list. So why should those people have their 2nd Amendment rights infringed upon because we have a system that doesn’t work correctly? What we really need to do is address the no fly list, how people get on it, what the redress is, how it can be done in an efficient and fair manner. Now if you can do that, and you really only have terror suspects on that list, then that’s a different story. Then the question becomes, who are these people who are on this terror suspect list? And what are we doing about it?
HH: And so if it was refined to that it was actually terror suspects, would you support denying them the right to purchase a gun?
BC: If they were truly terror suspects, and we were truly concerned that they were going to injure the United States of America, I would be willing to sit down and discuss what measures should be taken against them. I’m not sure that just putting them on a no fly list is enough.
HH: Here is the second thing the President had to say about gun control last night, cut number three:
BO: We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons, like the ones that were used in San Bernardino. I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, no matter how effective they are, cannot identify every would be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do and must do is make it harder for them to kill.
HH: Your reaction, Dr. Carson?
BC: Well, you know, we always get this rhetoric whenever there’s a mass shooting of any type. The first thing we want to do is say, take away the guns, let’s get rid of the guns, and that will solve the problem. You know, California has some of the most stringent gun control measures in the country, and in the area where this occurred, it was a gun-free zone. Those types of weapons were illegal, and that kind of ammunition was illegal. But it didn’t stop anything, because you know, the criminally-minded people and the terrorists, they’re not going to say oh, well, I was going to kill these people, but I looked at that rule that said I couldn’t have this, so I won’t do it. Now that’s ridiculous. And we also need to go back to the 2nd Amendment and ask ourselves what is it there for? And one of the main reasons that it is there is so that the people have the ability to protect themselves from foreign invasion, from domestic tyranny, from burglars, from whatever they need to protect themselves from. And when it comes to tyranny, if that is ever the case here, and everybody thinks no, that could never happen in the United States, but that’s what every country thinks before it happens. You have to have something more than a pea shooter to defend yourself with. And when the 2nd Amendment was written, you know, maybe they were dealing with muskets at that point, but they didn’t have anything in there that said well, the citizenry can’t have muskets, they can have a bow and arrow. So obviously, this same principle applies today.
HH: So let me conclude by going back to your upcoming trip to Nigeria. Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi, the head of, the emir of the caliphate. They are cooperating. The president of the United States, however, still will not use the term Islamist terror. Why do you think that is, Dr. Carson?
BC: Well, I believe that he thinks that by saying that, that somehow we’re declaring war on the whole lifestyle of Islam, which we are not. However, I hope that he, you know, spends some time reading about Islam, and how people go and actually read about Mohammed and the time that he spent in Mecca, and what his life was like there as opposed to when he went to Medina, and how they really changed, and how the philosophy began to change. And I hope we’ll read the Hadith, and look at the lessons that are there, and understand that you know, people who embrace all of that, you know, automatically don’t necessarily fit into this structure of our Constitution.
HH: Dr. Carson, I’ve been reading ISIS: Inside The Army Of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, and before that, I read Michael Morell’s book, The Great War Of Our Time, and of course, Lawrence Wright’s epic The Looming Tower. I don’t know that the President has read any of this. Are you reading up on the modern Islamist movement as well as having gone back to the original text that you just referenced?
BC: Oh, yes, absolutely.
HH: And so do we ever defeat this Islamist threat without significant number of American troops on the ground battling the Islamic State?
BC: There will probably at some point be a need to face that, no question about it. And we, again, one of the problems, I think, with this administration, is they don’t go to the people who actually know exactly what we need, and they don’t support them. They have their own philosophy. They tend to micromanage. You know, what a good commander-in-chief would do is you know, sit down with advisors, come up with a real strategy, and then you ask the military what do you need in order to accomplish this? And then you have to make the decision. Are you willing to give the military what they need in order to accomplish this? Or are you going to tie their hands and micromanage them so that they become ineffective and discouraged? And I think that’s a large part of what’s going on today.
HH: But eventually, ground troops, I don’t know how anyone can avoid this. Eventually, we are going to have to commit major American forces there. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but do you agree with that?
BC: Well, I suspect that they’re not going to simply capitulate.
HH: All right, and a last lighthearted question, even though you’re from Michigan and don’t know much about football as a result, we’ve got this Rose Bowl coming up where they ought to be called the Pac-12 protection committee. They did not select Ohio State. They selected Iowa versus Stanford. Do you have a favorite in that game?
BC: Well, you know, because I grew up with the Big 10 and now the Big 12, obviously I lean in that direction. But I have to tell you, I have a lot of friends at Stanford, so I’ll be happy either way it comes out.
HH: And how about Michigan State in the final four? You’ve got to be rooting for the Sparties even though you’re a U of M med grad.
BC: Well of course I’m extremely proud of the Spartans, and you know, I was actually pretty surprised that they pulled that off. But I was delighted.
HH: Well, they were, the refs were in the hammock for them when they played Ohio State. Dr. Carson, always a pleasure, safe travels to Africa, thanks for breaking some news on the show, I always appreciate that.
BC: All right, thanks very much, Hugh.
HH: Be well. See you in Las Vegas.
End of interview.