Dr. Ben Carson joined me for post-debate analysis past midnight Cleveland time:
HH: If you are a track and field fan of the Olympics, you know what it means to have a kick. That means to save your best for last. Tonight, many people on Twitter and social media thought that Dr. Ben Carson saved his kick for the second hour, including Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. I’m joined now by Dr. Ben Carson. Welcome, Dr. Carson, it’s great to have you on.
BC: Thank you, good to be back with you.
HH: Tell me what your overall impression of tonight was.
BC: Well, I thought that it was a pretty informative debate, because it provided an opportunity for people to get some insight into who the candidates were, finally, particularly when you put them side by side.
HH: What did you make of the questions?
BC: Obviously, they did some research. I was very disappointed that I didn’t get asked about some of them that they seemed to be asking a lot of people. I was chomping at the bit to do the immigration one, but never quite got there, but, and I didn’t think I was going to get any foreign policy, and I finally got one at the end. But it was good. It was okay.
HH: I am not surprised that a pediatric neurosurgeon remained calm and unruffled through a chaotic environment. I think you’re probably used to that. But what was the most surprising thing to you as a first timer on a debate stage from tonight’s proceedings?
BC: Well, I didn’t expect to see some of the people go after each other so vigorously. I really expected much more civility than that, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast. I’m not likely to engage in such activities.
HH: Who do you remember as being the least civil on the stage?
BC: Probably Rand Paul.
HH: And towards Chris Christie? Is that the exchange you’re referencing?
BC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that was probably the least civil.
HH: What did you make of Donald Trump and his refusal to raise his hand at the beginning of the debate about pledging fealty to whomever the nominee ultimately proves to be?
BC: I think that may be quite damaging to his aspirations, because I hope everybody recognizes that it is really taking a big risk to run a third party campaign and hand over the election to another progressive who’ll get two or three Supreme Court picks, and America would be changed forever.
HH: Dr. Carson, what did you learn about your fellow candidates tonight that you did not know before the debate began?
BC: I’m not sure that I learned anything I didn’t know already. I think Governor Huckabee has a tremendous sense of humor.
HH: But we knew that, right? What about…
BC: He’s pretty quick with that.
HH: And is this the first time you’ve appeared with any of them?
BC: No, I’ve pretty much been with all of them at one point or another in various settings.
HH: Well, then let me go across the podium with you, because you have this unique perspective of a non-politician, accomplished neurosurgeon, watching a circus-like atmosphere with millions of people. There were 1,960,000 tweets with the hashtag, #GOPDebates. This was massively watched. What did you make of Governor Kasich at the far end of the podium from you?
BC: I think he was steady. He was clearly the home crowd favorite.
BC: And he was making sure that he didn’t do anything that would abuse his position.
HH: To your right was the sometimes voluble, but not tonight, Chris Christie, though he did get, crossed swords with Rand Paul. Did your impression change of the governor of New Jersey at all?
BC: Not in the slightest. He has been very consistent with what I’ve seen.
HH: Now obviously, you’re judging the eloquence of those people opposite you on either side by a different standard. You’re on the stage looking out, not on the audience looking in or a television viewer. Who was the most eloquent tonight?
BC: I think Rubio was quite eloquent, very articulate and precise in what he was saying.
HH: Did Governor Bush leave any impression on you at all?
BC: He left an impression as a nice man, but of course, I thought that already. He didn’t really, I think, move the ball one direction or the other.
HH: Now Governor Walker is on with Sean Hannity as we speak, and it began by asking him to defend his answer on rape and abortion exception, which Marco Rubio denied having, and which Scott Walker defends holding. What’s your position on that?
BC: Well, I am about as pro-life as anyone can be. And one of the things that I would have brought out had that question been given to me is I would have said the instances where a mother’s life is in danger by delivering the baby has decreased dramatically, as medial knowledge and ability has increased. And that used to be, that used to be a legitimate argument. It’s not much of an argument these days.
HH: That’s what Scott Walker said to Sean Hannity at the top of the hour. He said it is a false choice. Do you agree with his assessment?
BC: Yeah, pretty much, yeah.
HH: The person who did best in the Fox News focus group, and again, that’s Frank Luntz hand-picked, is Ted Cruz, who vanished like you did for a lot of the first, well actually, you two guys made an appearance, and it’s though you went out for coffee and came back in the last 30 minutes.
BC: (laughing) Well, we didn’t get much opportunity before that.
HH: It’s true. Do you feel that was fair? Or was that just something that was going to happen with Donald Trump in the room?
BC: I think it sort of happened because there were a lot of people who felt that they needed to get their digs in, and those who were more reserved were going to be left out in that situation.
HH: Who, besides you, do you think is of as reserved?
BC: Scott Walker.
HH: And so now I want to ask you a question I’ve asked Carly Fiorina and George Pataki tonight, and it’s sincere. I get to ask questions at the next debate. If you’re back on the stage again, what’s your advice to me, having gone through one of these, as a questioner trying to serve the public interest?
BC: I would try to make sure that you ask questions that are outside of a person’s usual area of strength. So you know, ask a Senator, maybe something about his health care plan. Ask a doctor something about his philosophy on how foreign policy should be handled. Go outside of their clear areas of expertise.
HH: Now Dr. Carson, this is not a criticism of you or anyone. No one asked this question. The only time the active duty military came up tonight was when Chris Christie brought up the Ohio Class submarine and a couple of things about Defense. Our men and women in uniform, both in the first and second debate, just wasn’t, it was like a 9/10 debate. Did you, do you think that’s a big, glaring hole in what was covered?
BC: Well, hopefully it will get covered in subsequent, you know, subsequent debates, because it’s a big issue. And like I said, you know, if we don’t get the military right, nothing else matters.
HH: Yeah, you did say that. You’re probably, you and Christie are probably the only guys who spoke directly to that subject. Let me close by asking you about the Iran deal, and this is outside of your area of expertise. I’m just curious. Chuck Schumer came out against it tonight. Do you think it can be defeated? And ought it to have not dominated tonight’s debate?
BC: It is a big topic. I do think it can be defeated. I think the Republicans need to emphasize that this is not a partisan issue. This is a matter of what is pro-American and what is anti-American, what is pro-world and what is anti-world, and play up on the loyalties of the Democrats to the next generations that follow us. I think they might be successful.
HH: Let me play for you what the President said yesterday.
BO: It’s those hardliners chanting death to America who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.
HH: We began by talking about civility. That’s the least civil thing I think I’ve ever heard a president say, Dr. Carson.
BC: That was pretty outrageous, no question about it, but he believes that anybody who disagrees with him is deserving of ridicule, because they obviously don’t have a brain if they disagree with him.
HH: I liked your joke about half-brains and being a brain surgeon. But I conclude by asking you, are you more hopeful about American politics at the conclusion of the debate or less?
BC: I’m actually more optimistic, because you know, I’m seeing a tremendous response on Facebook and Twitter, and some of these other metrics, which means that people are actually listening. And that’s good. And they’re not just being swayed by celebrity.
HH: Dr. Ben Carson, thank you for joining me on this special Salem Radio Network broadcast. I’ll see you at the Reagan Library in a month.
End of interview.