Dr. Ben Carson, a conservative neurosurgeon who is considering a run for president, faced his first real media vetting Wednesday. It was a live on-air interview with Wolf Blitzer, and it lasted 28 minutes.
Blitzer said he's known Carson for "a long time," as they both attended Johns Hopkins University, and said he admires Carson's work. But that didn't stop Blitzer from pressing him on some of the un-P.C. comments Carson has made.
Asked if he would run for president, a day after a CNN poll found that Carson is in second place among the GOP field, Carson said he would decide by May 1.
"I'm not sure that anybody wants to put themselves into that kind of stressful situation," he said. "Whether I want to do it or not, I do feel an obligation to at least very seriously consider the possibility."
On comparing the U.S. to "Nazi Germany":
"Well, Nazi Germany experienced something horrible. The people in Nazi Germany largely did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But did they say anything? Of course not. They kept their mouths shut. And there are very important lessons to be learned there. The fact that our government is using instruments of government like the IRS to punish its opponents, this is not the kind of thing that, as far as I'm concerned, is a Democrat or a Republican issue. This is an American issue. This is something that threatens all of our liberty, all of our freedom. And you can go out on the street and just talk to people. And you will see that a lot of people do not feel free to express themselves. And, in fact, this is America, a place where people came to from other parts of the world to escape from governments that told them what they could say and what they couldn't say, where they could live—all these kinds of things. This is a country that is supposed to be for, of, and by the people. The government is supposed to conform to the will of the people, not the people to the will of the government. We have to change that, and change it very soon."
"When I was a child and when you were a child, they used to say, 'Sticks and stones break my bones, words will never hurt me.' Whatever happened to that? We need to get to the point where we can look beyond the word and look for the meaning and understand that, in fact, our country is changing, that, in fact, there are people here who feel threatened. Yes, there are people who are intimidated by what's going on. This has never been the intention for America. And unless we're willing to face it, we're not going to conquer it."
Asked whether he would take back his original Nazi Germany comment from this March, he said, "Absolutely not."
On calling the Affordable Care Act "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery":
"Slavery was a horrible thing and affected many people in horrible ways, some of those effects still present today. So, no, it is not the same as slavery. However, what needs to be understood here is that the way this country was set up, the people—we the people—were set up at the pinnacle of power in this nation. The government is supposed to conform to our will. By taking the most important thing you have—your health and your health care—and turning that over to the government, you fundamentally shift the power, a huge chunk of it, from the people to the government."
On immigration reform:
"First of all, we have to recognize that we do have laws and we must uphold these laws. And we also have a mechanism for taking care of immigration reform. It is well-stated in our Constitution and we should use those constitutional avenues to take care of this. There is nothing in our Constitution that warrants an executive order for something of this magnitude and something that affects so many Americans. This is a republic type of government. We have a representative government. It should be done according to the will of the people, not according to the will of someone who thinks that they know better than all the people."
What does he think of President Obama?
"I think that he is a man who some people say is stupid, is inexperienced, doesn't know what he's doing. I very much disagree with those people. I think he knows exactly what he's doing. And I think he has an agenda that is very different from that of many Americans, and he's doing a very good job of accomplishing it."
Overall, there were no EXCLU SCOOPS from the Carson interview, but it will certainly be interesting to watch Carson respond to these sorts of questions over and over again during the next several months. For now, Carson may be able to enjoy relatively great poll numbers, but his propensity to measure news events against the worst atrocities in world history will surely continue to haunt him in interviews.
According to Carson, though, he'd really prefer to stick to talking about policy, not ideology.
"Doctors actually have brains, too, and actually can think about things and opine on things, and have been trained to make decisions based on evidence, as opposed to ideology," he said Wednesday.
Just what his policy platform as a presidential candidate would be, however, is unclear.