Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon running as a Republican candidate for President, is steadily gaining in the polls even as Donald Trump is losing. Are voters moving towards him? And why? But the more important question is whether Ben Carson is a dangerous man to have potentially running this country.
I ask that question because of some things he’s been quoted as having said. He’s said so much of late that raise concerns that need to be pointed out and looked into, things that go to the very heart of his qualifications for office, let alone the highest office in the land.
Let’s look first at what he said or, rather, didn’t say when Trump went goofy on the vaccines-cause-autism mini rant. You might recall that Trump gave an anecdote about someone who works with him or for him or that he knew or heard about or whatever who one day had a normal kid, then the kid got vaccinated and suddenly the kid has autism.
Before we get to Carson’s pitifully weak response to that stupidity, we need to break down Trump’s idiocy first. Allow me to say as succinctly and eloquently as I can: THERE IS NO CORRELATION BETWEEN VACCINATING A CHILD AND THE CHILD HAVING AUTISM. None whatsoever. And, even if there were a relationship between the two, autism does not happen that quickly after . . anything . . in other words, even if vaccines did cause autism – and let me be clear on this -VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM, THE SCIENCE IS CLEAR ON THAT – you do not get autism the day after a vaccine.
Okay, now that we’ve looked at that idiocy, we need to look at Carson’s response. I don’t think he had one. Seriously, he said nothing of note in response. This man is a physician, whether retired or still practicing is irrelevant, he had at one time a medical license. Part of any professional position is educating people, and he did not rebut Trump’s foolish claims. Nor did Rand Paul, another physician, but he’s not the issue (for now). Carson said nothing about the *fact* that VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM. As a physician the least we could have expected Carson to do would be to question where Trump’s scientific proof of his claim is. Trump was clearly pandering (something he’s good at), but Carson, by saying nothing in response, was an equal panderer. What makes Carson dangerous here is not just that he’s like every other politician or politician wannabe; the danger is that he does not act on his medical knowledge and continues to perpetuate the false notion of an equivalence between vaccines and autism. That idea, in turn, causes or leads folks to not vaccinate their kids. That results in mini-epidemics such as happened in California fairly recently when there was a large outbreak with unvaccinated kids at Disneyland and it spread. That’s the ultimate danger. No knowledge leads to dangerous illnesses spreading. And Carson, in a position to do something to rebut the stupidity, the foolishness, the idiocy, somnambulated his way through a response that was a non-response. We expect more.
The next issue is Carson’s support for health care savings accounts. The idea behind those, and they’re popular with the political right, is that people can put aside money for health care needs against that rainy day when the account holder gets seriously ill (in reality, the inevitable event that one gets sick, but let’s move quickly on). The individual will set aside money each month from his paycheck and put it into this health care account. Frequently in the past, employees had the option of having health insurance or these accounts; sometimes, if memory serves, you could opt for the insurance and put some amount aside into the account to cover the deductible. The difficulty was that you didn’t get to keep the money at the end of the year; it didn’t roll over or revert to the holder. Carson’s claim is that we get these accounts and, if you don’t use them, you have a windfall when you retire or whenever that you can then use.
There’s so much wrong with this idea that I don’t know where to begin. First, they don’t work. Too few people buy into them and too few people have enough money in the accounts to cover medical expenses let alone have a windfall at retirement or later in life (price open heart surgery lately? How about cancer treatments?). But the real issue is that too few people have the financial wherewithal to set aside the kind of money Carson is talking about for the accounts to do much good (in the absence of health insurance, which is what he was arguing for, ridding America of “Obamacare”). But they also don’t have the finances to set aside the money: too many people are scuffling to make ends meet, let alone to set aside money for healthcare expenses – in the absence of health insurance. It’s dangerous to suggest this as a panacea for healthcare market ills if “Obamacare” (more accurately, the Affordable Care Act) is repealed. It hurts the very people who need the health insurance because they don’t have money to pay their bills.
Next up is Carson’s comment regarding the qualification of a Muslim for the presidency. He said they’re not and wouldn’t vote for one. Oh, but he’d consider one for another office, just not President. To be fair, Carson claims the comment was taken out of context, that he was responding to a question about a President who wanted to impose Sharia law or was a believer in Sharia law or some such. The problem is that no one heard that part of the question, including those who were there. He’s also since amended his comments, saying they’d be qualified if they reject a “theocracy.”
But let’s set that aside for the time being and break down the idea. That’s what was said about John F. Kennedy and being a Catholic. It was said long before that about Catholics, back to when Al Smith ran for President in 1928. And you know what? When Kennedy was elected, nothing happened. Something similar was said about blacks being President, and that was as recent as 2008: some bigots said African-Americans aren’t qualified to be President. Can anyone explain to me why there’s a difference between Carson’s comments about Muslims being unqualified for the presidency and previous thinking regarding Catholics and African-Americans? Presumably, the same thing would be said about any minority and the same question would hold: why? Why are they unqualified? What about the person’s personal beliefs (or skin color or ethnic background) would make someone unqualified for the highest office in the land? Assuming no overt racism, like in David Duke’s case or an anarchist tendency, please tell me why. It’s dangerous to hold the idea that because someone is Muslim (or Catholic, or Jewish, or Hindu, or Buddhist) he or she is unqualified for the office. Believing that is making a religious test for office and putting your own religion ahead of any other and disparaging other religions. He has complete disregard for anyone else’s religion but his own and seems almost to be arguing for a theocracy himself, based on Christianity.
We next have to look at his idea that, in the event you’re under fire and threat from a well-armed person who’s on a shooting spree, the people thus under fire should rush the gunman and try to take the shooter on. Again, to be fair, some defend this idea. And Carson isn’t backing down from the comment either. But this isn’t about being fair, this is about being sane. Homeland Security says not to do that. The police routinely say not to go after robbers, whether in your home, on the street, in a bank, wherever, in the event someone with a gun is trying to commit a crime and you’re there.
This would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. For one thing, Carson is essentially blaming the victims for, well, being victims. ‘Allowing themselves to be victims’ is almost his language. It also makes little sense to try anything like that. Against a well armed person, or anyone with a weapon and you’re unarmed, you’d be foolish to try something like that. You’re putting your life and the lives of everyone around you at risk if you act like that. Even if you do disarm the shooter, you’ve endangered everyone around you in the effort. That’s not a presidential idea, that’s a knee-jerk, political pandering idea. He’s pandering to gun owners and not appealing to reason. There’s also the idea that most people won’t react in that way, that fast. The first instinct is just the opposite: run. But all in all, it’s just a dangerous idea and will likely result in more death.
I’ll close with his stupidity about how if Jews were armed in World War II, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened. The thing is, some were armed. Look it up; it was called the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Jews were armed (not well, but they were) and they lasted all of 27 days before being completely overrun and killed. Why would anyone believe that a small group of people up against an overwhelmingly large military, an army better armed and with nearly the full weight of the populace behind them, would stand a chance against that army?
Two things are dangerous about this idea. First, that he’s using what Jews hold sacred, the Holocaust. It’s their people, their horrific loss, not his. It’s not something political to use to defend an indefensible idea, the right to assault weapons. To use the Holocaust for political gain is beyond the pale; it’s disgusting, disgraceful, demeaning, and despicable. No one should ever use the history of another group for his/her own gain. No one. Period. Respect the past, talk about the past, but don’t use that past for yourself. The other thing, of far less import but still important, is that it flies in the face of clearly inaccurate history. Jews were heavily outmanned and heavily outgunned (even were the guns remaining in their hands). Just because people are armed doesn’t mean the outcome will be better.
Ben Carson is dangerous, far more dangerous than his seemingly reasonable speeches portray him. He is, in fact, a doctor who doesn’t uphold his professional code of ethics and training by correcting incorrect information. He is unknowledgeable about economic matters and how most people need their paychecks just to survive, let alone saving for a medical emergency in the absence of health insurance. He’s a racist with seriously twisted ideas about qualifications of others for office. He also holds unrealistic positions regarding arming people. He’s thoughtless, not thoughtful.
Carson is thus unqualified for office.