A new Quinnipiac poll Thursday showed Ben Carson leading the entire Republican presidential field in Iowa, including a substantial eight point lead over Donald Trump. “It’s Ben Carson’s turn in the spotlight,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Actually, Carson has been in the spotlight for some time. He’s touring the country promoting a book, and is in the Kansas and Missouri area this week (he’s in Overland Park Friday.) He’s talked with local reporters about the book, and the presidential race, and the controversy surrounding some of his statements.
Here’s a transcript of his interview with The Star. The questions and answers have been slightly edited for clarity.
The Star: Politics first. You’re leading in Iowa, apparently. What do you think is going on?
Carson: I’m pleased. But what it tells me is people are actually listening to what I’m saying, as opposed to what the media says I’m saying.
Do you think the media have given you an unfair shake in this election?
Very much so. Just recently, look at the Oregon shooting. I was asked the question ‘if you were there, and somebody had a gun to your head, and asked you whether you were a Christian, what would you do?’ I stated what I would do. (Note: He suggested potential victims rush the shooter.) They deleted the question and just made it look like I was attacking the victims, and saying they didn’t do what was appropriate. That’s typical of the kind of thing they do.
You know, when I talked about if the Jews in Nazi Germany had been armed, it would have been more difficult. That was in the context of me saying that historically tyranny and tyrants, they disarm people before they impose their tyranny. In no way was that a criticism of Jews, but of course everything I try to say they try to put it in another light to make it seem like I’m a horrible guy.
The problem is, I’ve been out there. There are enough people who are savvy enough to actually look at the context, and then they know exactly what I’m saying.
Why do you think these rhetorical problems crop up a lot in your campaign?
I’ll tell you exactly why. Because I represent an existential threat to the secular progressive movement.
What do you mean by that?
In order for them to propagate their agenda, they need a victim class. They need people to feel they’re dependent on them. And that they are the great savior. Their goal is to fundamentally change America. They believe we should have a utopia-type society, where everybody depends on the government from the cradle to the grave, and the government know best. I am the complete antithesis of that.
But you don’t think Jeb Bush, for example, believes in government from cradle to grave, or some of the other candidates. Or do you?
They may not believe in it, but my whole life, my whole story, represents the antithesis of what they advocate. That’s why it’s such a threat to them. And they can’t afford to have their base disrupted. The message that I give, for instance to the black community, is that there’s a trillion dollars in the black community. Learn how to turn that dollar over in your own community two or three times before you send it out. That will create wealth. Then you reach back and pull others along. But they don’t want those kinds of messages out there.
Do you think your rhetoric is driving the outsider sentiment in the Republican party?
They’re certainly tired of the political correctness, and somebody telling you what’s acceptable. This is America. We have a lot of people who gave their lives so we could have freedom of speech and freedom of expression. We’re just allowing another force to take control of what so many have fought for. I’m not willing to do it, and a lot of others aren’t willing to do it.
But you do get the sense that some people think your rhetoric and Donald Trump’s rhetoric may be more on the fringe of current discourse than other candidates. You wouldn’t necessarily reject that view, would you?
There’s no question I’m not going to be corralled and do what you’re supposed to do.
Do you think you can win the nomination?
Absolutely. By continuing to tell the truth, by continuing to talk to the people. It’s about coming up with real solutions people can understand.
Tell me about the book.
Most Americans recognize that we have a Constitution, but these days relatively few people know what’s in it, what was behind it. It guarantees our liberties, and defines the role of government, and also constrains the government. Because the natural tendency for government is to grow, and infiltrate, and to dominate. This will keep that from happening, if we adhere to it. And we haven’t been strictly adhering to it, and consequently there is more domination of government. It’s not exactly what was envisioned by our founders.
Do you think the Constitution was flawed when it was adopted?
I think it’s about as good a document as you can have, but obviously there are some things that were not taken into consideration. For instance, the average age of death when we instituted the Constitution was 47. Now, you’re looking at 80. That makes a difference if you have lifetime appointments for federal judges, and Supreme Court judges. Something like that may need to be looked at.
Term limits. It wasn’t an issue because it was such a huge sacrifice. The concept that somebody wanted to stay there wasn’t even considered. Yes, there are certainly things that probably should be looked at.
But we also should be looking at the context of the things that were written. What was the purpose? The 14th amendment was primarily there for the rights of freedmen. It certainly wasn’t there to guarantee that a person here illegally could have a baby and use that as an anchor to stay. That wasn’t part of the intention of it.
But when the Constitution was written and adopted, anchor babies wouldn’t have been an issue either, because almost all of America was an immigrant population. That’s one of the arguments against an originalist construction of the Constitution. Slaves were three-fifths of a person, which we would consider absurd. That suggests the founders didn’t have all the answers.
Remember, now, the three-fifths of a person thing and the reason that it was done. It was done in order to limit the power of the southern states, who wanted to count the slaves as a whole person, which would give them much more authority and the ability to spread slavery throughout the country.
So as a compromise, they came up with three-fifths figure. And that leads to the next question, which is the criticism that conservatives in the Republican party seem less willing to compromise now. Is that right, or not right?
I wouldn’t say that specifically about conservatives. I would say that about everybody. A lot of it has to do with the people we’ve selected. You know 85 percent of congressional districts are safe districts, so we tend to get more extreme people who are less willing to compromise. The gerrymandering has been very detrimental to the unity of our country.
Are you enjoying this book tour?
It’s been particularly hectic, because there hasn’t been less than a thousand people at any signing event. Trying to get all those books signed in an hour and half can be a real chore.
Why are you doing that instead of campaigning in Iowa or New Hampshire?
Because when I wrote the book I promised the publisher I would do it. We didn’t anticipate this being the situation, but it is, and I always keep my promises.