Freshman Elle Rogers, a Politics, Philosophy and Economics major, will be writing a weekly profile of each candidate in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Rogers plans on pursuing a career in public policy after graduating. Her hobbies include reading books about political theory, singing Disney songs and eating cookie butter, and once she finished an entire carton of Ben and Jerry’s strawberry cheesecake ice cream in one sitting. This is Rogers’ first profile. Follow Rogers on Twitter here.
1. Who is Ben Carson?
Dr. Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon and author best known for being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins at the head. Originally hailing from Detroit, Dr. Carson majored in psychology at Yale University before receiving his M.D. from the University of Michigan. In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Carson gained political notoriety after delivering a heavily circulated speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, which launched his career as a conservative author, speaker, and commentator. Carson currently lives in Maryland with his wife Candy and their three sons. Fun fact: Dr. Carson was, at one point, the bottom of his class. To remedy this, his mother forced him to read two books a week and give her a report. Within a year, he was at the top of his class.
2. What's the theme of this candidate's campaign?
Heal. Inspire. Revive.
3. What issues are most important to this candidate?
The Carson campaign site lists 10 key issues: abortion, the federal budget, education, Guantanamo Bay, health care, religious liberty, Russia, gun control, Israel, and the federal tax code.
4. Position on abortion?
Using the Hippocratic Oath's "do no harm" clause as his guide, Dr. Carson states on his website, "I am unabashedly and entirely pro-life. Human life begins at conception and innocent life must be protected." Dr. Carson's record, however, casts some doubt on this firm stance; during his career as a neurosurgeon, Carson referred women to doctors who perform abortions, was a trustee for a foundation that donated heavily to Planned Parenthood, and has struggled as a candidate to express which legal restrictions he supports on abortion.
5. Position on the federal budget?
Like fellow candidate and libertarian darling Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Dr. Carson supports a Constitutional Amendment that would require Congress to balance the federal budget annually, handicapping the government to spend only the money it collects in taxes and rendering them unable to borrow money.
6. Position on education?
The issue of education hits close to home for Dr. Carson, who was raised by an illiterate single mother. He hails education as "the fundamental principle of what makes America a success" and believes in school choice and local control while also chastising the Department of Education for "increasingly trying to dictate how children are educated." Dr. Carson sees this overreach as an argument to overturn Common Core.
7. Position on Guantanamo Bay?
Interestingly, while Dr. Carson urged the United States to "identify evil...and to combat it effectively" in an op-ed for the Washington Times regarding Islamic terrorism, his campaign has focused on the less buzzed-about topic of Guantanamo Bay. Opposing President Obama's attempts to shut down the military prison, Carson remains dedicated to keeping Gitmo (which he calls "the single best facility" for detaining radical terrorists) open.
8. Position on health care?
Dr. Carson drew controversy at the 2013 Values Voter Summit after claiming that President Obama's Affordable Care Act is the worst thing to happen in the country "since slavery."In 2013, Carson proposed an alternative to Obamacare in the form of patient-controlled health savings accounts.
9. Position on religious liberty?
"The United States of America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. We can and should be proud of that fact," the Carson campaign website reads. Although Dr. Carson acknowledged that legal gay marriage "is now the law of the land," he also challenged Congress to ensure that deeply held religious views are respected and protected." Keeping in line with this belief, Carson defended Indiana's controversial RFRA law earlier this year and recently came out in support of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage laws to homosexual couples.
10. Position on Russia?
Carson warns that President Vladimir Putin's Russia "has become dangerously belligerent" and, after destabilizing Ukraine, "is a rising threat to the peace and security of the American people." He questions Russia's seat on the United Nations Security Council and advocates for strengthening the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stop Putin's expansion into eastern Europe.
11. Position on gun control?
Dr. Carson puzzled conservatives when he told Glenn Beck in 2013, "I think if you live in the midst of a lot of people, and I’m afraid that that semi-automatic weapon is going to fall into the hands of a crazy person, I would rather you not have it.” This spring, Carson addressed his comments at an NRA convention, explaining that he has since "learned to express" himself and reassuring his base that he is "extremely pro-Second Amendment, no question about it."
12. Position on Israel?
On a recent trip to Israel, Dr. Carson reiterated that the United States should not "ever leave the Israelis in a position of wondering whether we should support them." He backs Israel's disputed control of the West Bank and is a strong adversary of the recently-neogotiated Iran Deal, which many claim will allow the rogue nation to carry out nuclear strikes against its jewish neighbor.
13. Position on the federal tax code?
The other tenet of Dr. Carson's plan to reform the national debt is a version of the "flat tax" advocated for by other GOP candidates. Like the Biblical tithing system, the tax code under a Carson administration would require all Americans to pay 10% of their income of taxes. Unlike similar flat taxes introduced by Sen. Paul and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Carson's would include no exemptions for the poor. Experts estimate that this plan would raise government revenue by roughly $1.1 trillion and, when implemented simultaneously with the balanced budget amendment, diminish spending by 72% -- the equivalent of eliminating Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and the entire military.
14. Is he a controversial figure? Why?
Some speculate that, much like Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Carson suffers from foot in mouth disease. Recently, Carson has come under fire for contentious remarks about gay marriage andveterans, for alleging that the newly-structured Advanced Placement history class will make students want "to go sign up for ISIS", and for comparing the US government to Nazi Germany. Carson also tends to toe the GOP party line, calling President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq "unnecessary", admitting that the federal minimum wage should "probably" be higher than $7.25, and endorsing subsidies for new fueling stations far larger than any proposed by President Obama, as well as holding somewhat unorthodox views on abortion and gun control. And while Carson's inexperience in politics has garnered him second position in the most recent polls, some experts see it as a reason for concern; Jim Geraghty of the National Review points out that Carson has assembled no circle of policy advisors the way his rivals have, wondering if the candidate will be able to "get up to speed on the details of the complex policy issues that command a president's attention."
15. What’s one humorous or summarizing quote from this presidential hopeful?
Pundits agree that Dr. Carson delivered the best closing statement of the night at the first GOP presidential debate in August, using humor and hope to summarize his campaign: "I am the only one to separate Siamese twins. The only one to operate on babies while they’re still in their mother’s womb. The only one to take out half of a brain, but you would think if you go to Washington, that someone had beat me to it. But I am very hopeful that I am not the only one who is willing to pick up the baton of freedom. Because freedom is not free and we must fight for it every day. Everyone of us must fight for it because we are fighting for our children and the next generation.”