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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Dr. Ben Carson On The Iran Deal, Syria, And Religious Liberty

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The transcript:

HH: I’m pleased to begin today’s show with Dr. Ben Carson, who is rising in polls everywhere. Dr. Carson, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

BC: Thank you, good to be with you.

HH: Now I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, yet, but Governor Perry has announced he’s dropping out of the race. What’s your reaction to that, Dr. Carson?

BC: Well, yeah, I just heard it. It’s certainly not surprising given the financial situation. He’s a good man. I’ve gotten to know him. And you know, I wish him the best, and may be calling upon him for some advice. I think he’s got a terrific mind.

HH: He does. He’s a wonderful guy as well. I share that regret that he’s dropped out, because he’s just wonderful to be around and ask questions of. So Dr. Carson, when I saw you in Iowa, you said you had been expecting some foreign affairs questions at the first debate, so I’ll throw you some now.

BC: Okay.

HH: Do you believe President Obama has complied with the Corker-Cardin law with regards to the Iran deal?

BC: Well, it sounds like they haven’t gotten all of the documents into the hands of all of the legislators, yet. But you know, my biggest problem with the whole Iranian situation is that I believe that the Congress should have never agreed to anything outside of a treaty. You know, it fits all the requirements for a treaty. And of course, he’s bamboozled them, because he knows that if it’s a treaty, two-thirds of the Senate have to okay it. And why are they continuing to let him play all of these games?

HH: What is your recommendation to them? To simply declare that he’s not in compliance, and that people are risking violating the law? Or to break the filibuster, which is something that I’ll be talking about with Senators McCain and Rubio and Graham later in the program? They actually have experience, and they’re all sitting in the Senate. What should they do?

BC: Well, I think they’ve already played their hand now. I think he’s going to beat them. I don’t think they’re going to be able to do anything legislatively. Now they threw away their chance to make sure that it was a treaty. And now that it’s just an executive deal, I don’t know that they have anything that they can do.

HH: If…

BC: The good thing, however, is that it is not binding the day that he leaves office since it’s not a treaty.

HH: You’ve anticipated my next question. What does Dr. Ben Carson say he will do on his first day as president regarding the Iranian deal?

BC: I think we let the Iranians know that there’s a new sheriff in town, and that we’re not abiding by that, and we begin to use whatever powers we have to slow down the process. But you know, this is a longer term problem, because our allies right now don’t have a whole lot of respect for us. And therefore, when we call for a boycott, they’re probably going to say you know, go jump in a lake. We’re going to have to very quickly get back to a point where people actually believe what we say, that our friends recognize that we’re their friends, and that our enemies recognize that we’re their enemies. And there has to be consequences for being an enemy of the United States.

HH: You’ve traveled extensively around the world, Dr. Carson. Has your reception changed over the years as America’s standing in the world has changed when you go as, you know, the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins? Was that different in the 90s than it was on the 00s, and now that it’s in the 10s?

BC: Well, not to me, personally, but because that, those were personal relationships, and in most cases, they needed something from me. That was different. But you know, our standing in the world is very problematic, and it really puts American citizens in danger. It used to be that American citizens could pretty much go anywhere and not be worried, because people knew that the full force of our military was behind them. But you know, who’s afraid of us now? It’s a total paper tiger.

HH: What would, what do you think is going to be the impact of $100 billion dollars on General Soleimani and the Quds Forces?

BC: Well, it’s not going to be good. That’s for sure. You know, the Ayatollah has said, you know, very specifically, that there’s going to be a lot of money that’s going to be made available. And I think that it can only be a band thing for us. You know, all of this, you know, he’s got relationships with, you know, many terrorist organizations. And it seems almost like we’re facilitating the funding of those organizations. And it’s very hard for me to understand how we can calmly sit by when the Iranians are actually calling for the destruction of Israel, and you know, down with the USA. Do we think that they’re just blowing smoke?

HH: Yeah, that is the question. Now Dr. Carson, I want to ask you what I call commander-in-chief questions.

BC: Okay.

HH: Are you comfortable with the 3AM phone call and your ability to handle it, whatever that might be? We are on the third anniversary of a 3AM phone call at Benghazi that went very, very badly for four Americans, and for America’s position in the world. Do you think you’re ready to handle that kind of a crisis?

BC: Well, I think I could probably say with a great deal of confidence that I’ve had more 3AM phone calls than anybody else that’s running, and with lives on the line, and you had to make very quick and precise decisions. So you know, do you want to get that 3AM phone call? Or course, you don’t. But obviously, you want to be prepared ahead of time. And in most cases, what I always did in my department is we already sort of had preplanned what to do, because you kind of know what that 3AM phone call is going to do. And I would do the same thing as commander-in-chief. You’d have a list of likely 3AM phone calls, and you already have the situation pretty much defined in terms of what you’re going to do. I know that there might be an occasional thing that might fall outside of that, but the vast majority of things are going to fall inside of that if you’ve gone ahead and prepared ahead of time.

HH: Now the ultimate 3AM question involves ultimate weapons, the nuclear weapons of the United States and those of our enemies and our allies. Have you become familiar, yet, and it’s still early, but have you spent time studying up on the structure of our nuclear deterrent, yet, the triad?

BC: I’ve certainly had a couple of conversations about it. I had a conversation about it two days ago. You know, one of the things that I would emphasize extremely strongly, and it actually goes back to the Ronald Reagan administration, when he talked about, you know, defense and Star Wars, and people thought that he was crazy. I think that that is extremely pertinent right now. And I think that our failure to develop the right kinds of defensive weapons puts us in a very vulnerable situation. And our failure to control space puts us in a very vulnerable position, that we have to pay $77 million dollars every time we want to send somebody to the Space Station. The Chinese are just as active, or more active than us with their satellite technology. They’re going to be looking at manned space flights very shortly. They’re going to be trying to control our exo-atmosphere. And I’m just afraid that unless we get on the stick here pretty soon, that we’re going to be denied access. And whoever controls our space is going to control what’s going on here on the Earth.

HH: Well, part of the denial of access strategy that the Chinese are using in the South China Sea depends upon asymmetric weaponry. And our biggest stick is the Ohio Class submarine. It’s the boomer. And they age out in the next decade, and they’re phenomenally expensive to replace. Have you gotten into the tall grass, yet on, if we replaced the Ohio class, it will take up the entire presently allocated naval shipbuilding budget.

BC: Well, that’s true, but here’s where our advances used to be. We used to be innovators. We don’t necessarily have to follow the same paradigm that we followed 20 years ago. And innovative technology in terms of our weaponry is what used to give us the advantage. We’re not doing that anymore, not to the extent that we should be.

HH: A good caution. Part two of this, Dr. Carson, I ask everyone if they’ve read The Looming Tower. I may have already asked you this, yet, because it’s the sort of history of the rise of al Qaeda and radical Sunni Islam. Have you had a chance to read Lawrence Wright’s book?

BC: I’ve read portions of it.

HH: And what do you think is the tap root of this burgeoning Islamist fundamentalism that we see most obviously in the form of ISIS, but it’s around the world, but it’s causing four million Syrians to flee and a million Libyans to flee? What’s the tap root?

BC: Well, I think the biggest problem, you know, they’ve wanted to do this. They’ve wanted to, you know, develop their caliphate. They’ve wanted to spread their influence. They’ve wanted to dominate for a very long time. Why were they not able to do it until now? I think there was substantial opposition, and they were afraid. But right now, what do they have to fear? We’re not presenting any substantial obstacle to them. And you know, they now have developed their own caliphate. They have half of Iraq. They have a third of Syria. They have footholds in Tunisia and Somalia and Nigeria. They’re able to recruit people from all over the globe, including from our own country. And they look like winners. So what is there to stop them? We don’t seem to be offering any resistance to what they’re doing.

HH: Lindsey Graham has suggested 10,000 American troops deploy as part of a regional force. What do you think of that, to combat ISIS? What do you think of that? And what about the complication of Russians being there now in our way?

BC: Well, the Russians, I mean, if we let the Russians, the fact that they’re going to be there to be our deterrent, then we’re never going to get anything done. I think we do have to make a commitment. You know, a lot of people have become weary, because they said in 2003, we made a big mistake when we went into Iraq. And we don’t want to make that mistake again and lose troops and spend all that money. But the global jihadists are an existential threat to us. And unless we recognize that and are willing to commit whatever is necessary, we will never develop the group of friends and allies that we need in order to maintain the peace there. We’ve got to get all the people, you know, the whole Arabian Peninsula and everybody else involved in that area to commit troops, and to understand that it’s really for their security that we need to have ground forces. But we’re not going to get ground forces there unless we lead. It’s never going to form the coalition that the President thinks is magically going to appear one day.

HH: All right, Dr. Carson, I want to switch to domestic issues for just a second. I enjoy the protections of tenure at Fowler School of Law at Chapman University Law School. You know, I can’t be fired for my political opinions. I can’t be in any way punished because I’m on the radio talking with you. Did you enjoy tenure at Johns Hopkins University?

BC: Yes, I was a tenured full professor, absolutely.

HH: So do you think we should have tenure in the public schools? A lot of teachers, you know, Scott Walker took it away in Wisconsin, and a lot of my friends who are teachers in public schools tell me, look, you’ve got tenure, I need tenure, or I’ll get pushed around. What do you think about tenure at public institutions?

BC: For the most part, I don’t like the idea, because I think it, you know, your position should be merit-based. And a lot of people kind of slow down once they achieve that tenured position. I’m not sure that’s appropriate. Either that, or maybe we should make tenure much more difficult to obtain.

HH: So how do we justify it, you and I, and we both enjoy it, at Johns Hopkins and Chapman, but not in the public sector? Is it because it’s the public sector that it’s inappropriate?

BC: Well, I feel the same way about universities and medical institutions. Maybe it should be more difficult to obtain.

HH: All right…

BC: …because I think you get the best out of people when they still have something to lose.

HH: Interesting. Now Donald Trump has suggested that your managerial experience has been limited to hiring a nurse. What is your managerial experience?

BC: (laughing) Well, you know, when I took over pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, it wasn’t even on the map. And by 2008, U.S. News and World Report reported it as the number one pediatric neurosurgery division in the United States. And I had to orchestrate all that. That’s not easy. I’ve also spent 18 years on the board of Kellogg’s, and 16 years on the board of Costco, and was the chairman of the board of Vaccinogen. I also put together a national non-profit. As you know, nine out of ten of those fail. Ours not only didn’t fail, but won the Simon Award, which is only given to one philanthropic organization in the country out of the tens of thousands, and it comes with a check for $250,000 dollars, and the Ronald McDonald award, which is only given to one a year, also a six figure check out of tens of thousands of organizations. Obviously, you’re not going to do that if you don’t have significant organizational skills. I suspect that there’s nobody else running who can make those claims.

HH: Now Dr. Carson, you and Donald Trump had an exchange about religious belief, which I don’t want to get into. I think I heard you loud and clear saying you don’t want to carry that on. But I do have a larger issue about religious liberty, and that is a lot of people who serve out of their religious convictions, sometimes short-term missions, sometimes long-term missions, are part of institutions that enjoy tax exempt status under the IRS code. And they have religious beliefs which are going to be opposite of the conclusions of the Supreme Court as to what the law of the land is. If you are president, how important will religious liberty be on your agenda, and the protection of the tax exempt status of these institutions, not just churches, by the way, but parachurches and not-for-profits of the sort that you organized? What will do to protect their tax exempt status if they refuse to bend the knee on secular culture dominant elite opinion?

BC: Well, I guess you haven’t heard my tax proposal, because my proposal is to go to a proportional tax, and to eliminate all deductions and exemptions, which actually kind of frees all the churches to say what they want, and to…I think that might be a very healthy thing for us.

HH: But if you can’t pass that, what will you do to protect those institutions that do depend upon tax exempt status?

BC: To protect them from an out of control Supreme Court?

HH: Yes, and the Bob Jones decision, which ruled, for example, that a university that refused to allow interracial dating would lose their tax exempt status because of their failure to comply with what was a majoritarian, super-majoritarian, nearly unanimous opinion as to what was right and good and true?

BC: Well, you know, on that, I’m not 100% sure that the president can do a great deal about that. That’s going to be done through Congressional legislation. But you can certainly develop the relationships, I think, with the people in Congress. A lot of people have been very critical of the Congress, because they’ve said that, you know, they’ve sent all these people, and nothing has changed, but recognized there’s a very complex, hierarchical structure in Congress, and if you want to have influence, you have to play by the game.

HH: That’s absolutely true. Dr. Carson, we’re out of time, and I appreciate it, and I will see you next Wednesday night at the Reagan Library. Thank you, Dr.

BC: All right, look forward to it. Thank you.

End of interview.


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