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What the experts are saying about Ben Carson
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Details and Analysis of Dr. Ben Carson’s Tax Plan
Ben Carson is a highly regarded neurosurgeon who rose to national attention in 2013 when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. He was extremely critical of Obamacare during his remarks, given with President Barack Obama in attendance. Shortly thereafter he began speaking in public on political and policy issues, typically expressing conservative views, and began to get attention as a potential candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination. He announced his campaign for the presidency in May 2015.
Despite being a relative newcomer to politics, Carson is no stranger to attention. His life story, which includes coming from an impoverished background to become a world-renowned neurosurgeon, was made into a movie released in 2009 staring Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. as Carson.
Most of Carson’s views line up with general conservative thought. He staunchly opposed Obamacare, favors tax cuts as a way to stimulate the economy, and believes the welfare system has caused people to become trapped in poverty. On national security policy he has generally favored a strong military and has been critical of the Obama administration’s approach toward problems in the Middle East. He also suggested that failure to appropriately regulate the financial industry contributed to the economic crisis of 2008 and that high tariffs on imports would be good policy.
Carson’s position in the race has been fluid, drawing early interest and support when he first announced before fading early in the summer of 2015. He then rose into the top tier following several well-received debate performances in the late summer and early fall, but he has seen his support decline since mid-November following news reports and comments by the candidate suggesting he didn’t have a firm grasp on foreign policy issues. His fundraising, previously strong and leading the field, began to taper off at the same time. Although he has raised more than all of his GOP rivals at this point, he has also spent heavily, and it is unclear if he has enough funds to mount a viable campaign going forward.
Carson finished in fourth place in the Iowa caucuses, a distant eighth in the New Hampshire primary, last in South Carolina, and a distant fourth place in Nevada, all of which reinforces his status as a long shot for the Republican nomination. He has struggled in recent months to demonstrate that he is capable of going from the operating room to the Oval Office with no stop in between. His relative inexperience on the campaign trail has led to gaffes and blunders that more seasoned candidates would have avoided. But his accomplishments both professionally and politically have impressed many voters, and in a cycle when a history in elected office is seen by many to be a liability, he could climb back into contention if several of his rivals were to seriously stumble and he were able to reignite his earlier fundraising success.
Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson Sr. was born on Sept. 18, 1951, in Detroit, Mich. He is the second child of Sonya Copeland Carson and Robert Solomon Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist minister. Carson’s parents divorced when he was 8 years old, after which his mother raised his brother, Curtis, and him as a working single mother.
Carson graduated from Southwestern High School in Detroit before attending Yale University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology. From there, he received his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School.
Carson joined the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he was professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics. He was named director of pediatric neurosurgery at the age of 33, becoming the youngest ever director of a major division in Johns Hopkins history. Carson’s work at Johns Hopkins focused on traumatic brain injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, neurological and congenital disorders, epilepsy, and other neurological conditions.
Carson made history in 1987 when he became the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins. The Binder twins were craniopagus twins, joined at the back of the head. Carson led a surgical team of 70 members over 22 hours, successfully separating the twins. Both survived the procedure.
Carson also played a significant role in the revival of a procedure known as hemispherectomy. He was able to refine the drastic procedure, where part or all of one hemisphere of child’s brain is removed to control severe pediatric epilepsy. He went on to perform the procedure many times.
He announced his retirement as a surgeon in March 2013.
A bestselling author, Carson has penned six books, including an autobiography, Gifted Hands. His autobiography was adapted into a TV movie for the TNT network in 2009, with Carson being portrayed by Oscar-award winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr.
Carson emerged on the political stage in 2013, in a speech given at the National Prayer Breakfast, where Carson opined on several social and economic issues confronting the nation. He criticized the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, notably doing so in the presence of Obama. Since entering political life, Carson has been a commentator for Fox News Channel, and a weekly columnist at The Washington Times.
Carson has been honored for his achievements numerous times throughout his life. In 2008, Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush. He has been presented with 38 honorary degrees and dozens of national merit citations. A 2014 Gallup poll listed him as the sixth most admired man in the world.
He has also been honored for his work with the foundation he co-founded with his wife in 1994, the Carson Scholars Fund. The fund provides scholarships for students in grades 4-11 for “academic excellence and humanitarian qualities.” Since its founding, the fund has awarded more than 5,700 scholarships.
Carson met his wife, Lacena “Candy” Rustin, as a student at Yale in 1971. They were wed in 1975 and have three sons: Ben Jr., Rhoeyce, and Murray.
Carson has been honored on numerous occasions for his professional accomplishments and his character, including the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged,1 38 honorary degrees, and dozens of national merit citations.2
A Seventh-day Adventist, Carson has spoken regularly about his faith, his personal devotion to God, and the importance of the family.3 He has spoken about his rejection of the theory of evolution.4
Carson admitted to plagiarizing, and getting caught doing so, in a college paper. This is probably of little interest except that in his recent book, America the Beautiful, Carson appears to have also plagiarized part of the book, or at least was very sloppy regarding his citations. Carson has apologized and blamed it on citation errors – he did cite the borrowed text in the book’s endnotes, but did not indicate he had used substantially identical text.
Carson was a paid speaker at events organized by a company selling nutritional supplements known as “glyconutrients” and publicly touted the product in interviews.5 The company has a “checkered past” that includes being sued by the State of Texas for unlawful practices6 and making unsupported medical claims.7 Carson has defended the health benefits of glyconutrients as recently as January 2015 in an interview with Newsmax.8
He has described himself as a former “flaming liberal” who turned conservative after seeing many of his patients in Baltimore who were dependent on government and listening to Ronald Reagan speak.9 As Carson has never held political office, he has no established voting or governance record, but there is no evidence his views and positions are not deeply and sincerely held, and his willingness to stand up to Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast suggests he is likely to remain firm in his principles.
Carson is a sought-after public speaker in political, educational, and medical professional settings. His speaking style on the campaign trail has generally been low-key and often focuses on his personal experiences instead of political and policy-oriented content10 and been described as “meandering.”11 He was largely unnoticed during the first Republican debate until the end, when he made a strong close that led many to include him in the list of “winners” of that first event.12
Although a skilled and experienced speaker, he is new to the world of politics and is prone to making controversial statements someone with more of a background talking about policy issues would avoid. For example, he has referenced both slavery and Nazi Germany in comments, and while he was unfairly criticized and had his words twisted by the media, an experienced politician would have understood such references are best not used.13 He also said in response to a question about faith and the presidency that being a Muslim is incompatible with being president of the United States,14 again the sort of remark experienced politicians generally avoid making. He later backtracked on his comments and said he could support a Muslim in the Oval Office so long as he or she disavowed Sharia law.15
He notably spoke at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, touching on several social and economic issues facing America, all in the presence of Obama, whom he criticized.16 He has been a commentator of Fox News Channel17, a columnist at The Washington Times,18 and has authored six books.
Carson possesses numerous personal and professional, if not political, accomplishments. These include being named the youngest major division director at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University,19 pioneering the successful surgical separation of conjoined twins,20 and reviving the procedure of hemispherectomy — the removal of part or all of a hemisphere of the brain — to control severe pediatric epilepsy.21
Carson has advocated for simplifying the IRS tax code with a flat tax and eliminating tax loopholes.22 He proposed a tax rate of 14.9 percent that would eliminate all deductions, including those for charitable giving and the home mortgage deduction.23 While he refers to this as a flat tax, the 14.9 percent rate would only apply to income beginning at 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and he proposes that those under that level would pay a “de minimis” tax of $100 on their income.24 Taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest income would be eliminated entirely.
He would lower the corporate tax rate to 14.9 percent as well,25 and pledged a six-month moratorium on taxes for corporate profits currently held overseas so long as 10 percent of the funds brought back are invested in specially designated “21st Century Enterprise Zones” in high-poverty and high-unemployment areas.26 Future corporate profits earned overseas would be exempt from U.S. taxes.27
Carson has criticized the regulatory environment for becoming too burdensome on business, saying that it will eventually lead to government being able to shut down enterprises that refuse to cooperate.28 Carson opposes net neutrality, a policy that gives the Federal Communications Commission substantial authority over how Internet providers do business and offer their services.29
He has been inconsistent on the subject of raising the minimum wage. In May 2015 he said it should “probably, or possibly” should be increased.30 He reversed that position in the fourth Republican debate in early November 2015, saying, “I would not raise it.”31 Within a day, he contradicted that statement by saying he was “still very open to talking to people” about raising the minimum wage, although he still expressed concern about job losses.32 In the first Republican debate in August 2015, he said he favors indexing it to inflation, and having a two-tier minimum wage system so younger, inexperienced workers would still have job opportunities.33
However, Carson has said that regulation has a role in controlling excessive corporate power and greed and has blamed deregulation of the finance industry for the economic meltdown of 2008.34
Carson praised the role of unions in American history in his 2012 book, America the Beautiful, crediting them with achieving safe working conditions and fair wages. He also voices concerns about union bosses trying to obtain increased power and influence.35
Environment & Energy
Asked how he would manage the EPA as president, Carson said “the EPA should be a research and technology coordinator, not an armed police force” and “[a]ll regulations in a Carson Administration would need to be tested in a cost-benefit analysis.”36
Carson has advocated for offshore drilling and exploration for domestic sources of energy in the United States, particularly in Alaska, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.37 He has said he believes energy independence is a key component in improving world peace38 and favors ending the ban on export of oil and natural gas.39
He said climate change is not an excuse to avoid developing American’s natural resources, saying that “whether we are experiencing global warming or a coming ice age … we as responsible human beings must be concerned about our surroundings and what we will pass on to future generations.”40
Budget & Spending
Carson has advocated limiting government spending and expressed deep concern about the state of the national debt and the budget deficit.41 He proposed in his 2012 book, American the Beautiful, cutting every government department by 10 percent across the board, with no program or area being off limits,42 and in a 2015 interview said that as president he would order his department and agency heads to cut spending by 3 or 4 percent by targeting waste.43
Carson also promises to impose a moratorium on government hiring, says he will not fill the positions of retiring federal employees, and pledges to freeze the overall level of government spending in order to achieve a balanced budget.44
He also urged conservatives to vote against any politician who supported raising the debt limit, although his comments were aimed at primary voters, and he suggested once the primaries were over it was time for conservatives to vote for the Republican line regardless of how the candidate voted on the debt ceiling.45
Carson has shown mixed opinions on how to address issues in the American health care system.At one point he proposed that the government put $2,000 each year in a health savings account for every citizen46 and recommended that the government take over catastrophic care. This would have included abolishing Medicare and Medicaid and expecting retirees to rely on the built-up money in their HSA.47
Carson has since released an outline of a health care reform proposal centered on what he calls Health Empowerment Accounts, similar to Health Savings Accounts. Very few details were provided however, other than that funds in the accounts could be transferred among family members.48 It is unclear whether the government would fund the accounts, whether they would be mandatory, and whether the high-deductible plans they would be paired with would be the only type of insurance available.
His Medicare and Medicaid proposals are somewhat more substantive, allowing beneficiaries of both programs to receive a lump-sum to purchase insurance, and letting them have Health Empowerment Accounts.49 Medicare eligibility would be raised two months every year until reaching the age of 70, and then it would be linked directly to increases in life expectancy.50
In the past he has generally advocated for free market-based solutions to American’s health care problems. He is chairman of American Legacy PAC’s Save our Healthcare Project. The project has called for the full and complete repeal of Obamacare, replacing it with a free market solution. Other suggestions from the organization include eliminating any reform that is centralized in the federal government or includes bureaucracy, and allowing individuals to choose health care options based on moral and religious freedoms.51
Carson said he would keep one major element of Obamacare, however: the pre-existing conditions requirement that prevents health insurers from rejecting coverage for people who are already sick.52 He proposes that administration of this arrangement be set up like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and that a 5 percent fee on the profits of insurance companies fund it. In a 1996 interview, Carson said:
“The entire concept of for-profits for the insurance companies makes absolutely no sense. … The first thing we need to do is get rid of for-profit insurance companies. We have a lack of policies and we need to make the government responsible for catastrophic health care.”53
He said cost savings in health care can be achieved through tort reform.54
Entitlements & Welfare
Carson has also said that private charity is better and more effective in caring for people in need than government welfare and entitlement programs. He has concerns about how government programs compete with private charity and how they make the needy dependent on the government. He has proposed that government resources be reallocated to educate and provide opportunities, but with the inclusion of a work or education requirement.55
Carson has proposed applying high tariffs on products manufactured in other countries that are imported to the United States, and reduced tariffs on products that require assembly in the U.S. after being imported.56
Carson has recommended that the American immigration system mirror that of Canada, allowing for immigrants to obtain work visas. Guest workers would pay taxes but wouldn’t be eligible to vote. All guest workers would have to go through the same process as all other immigrants to obtain citizenship.57 Such workers would need to apply for their visa from outside the country, necessitating that illegal immigrants return to their home countries in order to apply, and they would only be eligible for jobs that can’t be filled by Americans. He recommends severely punishing employers who violate immigration and employment laws.58
Carson believes securing the borders is necessary before any programs can be enacted,59 and has suggested that drone strikes on the caves and tunnels used by smugglers could be an option (he clarified that the strikes would not occur while illegal immigrants were in the caves and tunnels).60
He said he favors allowing illegal immigrants currently in the country to stay if they pay fines, saying those who favor mass deportation have “no idea what they’re talking about” and calling such plans “impractical.”61
Carson was extremely critical of the most recent farm bill, which he said was part of an effort to put “a whole ’nother industry — the farm industry — and put them also completely under the thumb of the government,” and he noted it was an example of how “both parties have people who believe in big-government control.”62
He has said he would transfer federal lands currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the West to the states through a gradual process.63
Banking & Finance
Carson said deregulation of the financial sector led to the financial and economic meltdown of 2008,64 and he praised the Glass-Steagall act while criticizing its repeal.65 In an August 2015 op-ed he argued that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Dodd-Frank following the 2007-08 financial crisis, was the “ultimate example of regulatory overreach, a nanny state mechanism asserting its control over everyday Americans that they did not want, did not ask for and do not need.”
Carson wants the U.S. to lend more support to Ukraine in their struggle against Russian-backed separatists and to press European countries to look for and develop alternatives to Russian-supplied energy. He called for reinforcing American commitments to NATO.
Carson has also called for the U.S. to make clear that America stands with our Asian allies against China’s “territorial ambitions.” He believes China’s economic growth to be a national security threat, and he called for the U.S. to slash the nation’s corporate income tax to spur growth at home.66
He said he believes energy independence is a key component to improving world peace.67
War on Terror
He said that the Obama administration’s failures to send assistance to Americans under siege in Benghazi demonstrated a “complete lack of understanding of security.”68
He suggested that the Obama administration’s lack of action and support during the uprising in Iran in 2009 has led to much of the current crisis in the Middle East. He referred to the nuclear weapons deal negotiated with Iran as “perhaps the worst deal in the history of America,” He suggested that the Obama administration’s lack of action and support during the uprising in Iran in 2009 has led to much of the current crisis in the Middle East. He referred to the nuclear weapons deal negotiated with Iran as “perhaps the worst deal in the history of America” and said Iran is unlikely to keep the agreement,69 and has vowed to get rid of it on his first day in office.70
Asked about the original decision to invade Iraq, he said he was never in favor of the decision and said he would have found another way to remove Saddam Hussein.71 He also said that he told President Bush he shouldn’t invade Afghanistan, instead suggesting the U.S. announce a goal of making the U.S. “petroleum independent,” which he believes would have spurred Arab states to quickly turn over Osama Bin Laden and any other terrorists the U.S. requested.72
Carson has blamed the Obama administration for allowing ISIS to grow by not acting swiftly enough.73 He has called for an increase in drone strikes on terrorists and for U.S. troops to be used on the ground to defeat ISIS.74 He has also said the U.S. needs to increase its “information war” against ISIS, and arm and support what he believes should ultimately be a free Kurdistan (meaning it would separate from Iraq).75
He favors establishing a no-fly zone along the Syria/Turkey border to protect refugees and said the U.S. should not cede control over Syrian airspace to Russia.76 He also said a focus of U.S. efforts should be either destroying or seizing the oil fields in Eastern Syria that provide funding for ISIS,77 and he also advocates a formal declaration of war from Congress against the terrorist group.78
In response to the Obama administration’s decision to admit 10,000 refugees from Syria, Carson originally said they should all be screened to ensure none of them are terrorists and that his policy would be to admit people who “can boost our economy based on their skills and what they bring in” but didn’t offer a specific number he would allow in.79 Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, he said the U.S. should not allow any Syrian refugees to enter the U.S.,80 suggesting in an op-ed that Syrian refugees should instead be sheltered in Arab countries until they can return to their home country at a later time.81 He also called for the U.S. to help recruit male refugees to form a military force that would fight ISIS and protect refugee populations.82
He has said he favors, for anti-terror purposes, having a database of not only refugees admitted to the United States but all foreign-born citizens and residents, as well as possibly all native-born Americans as well.83 In late December he called for the Department of State to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, and also for the government to investigate the Council on American-Islamic Relations as a possible terrorist organization.84
Carson said he opposes the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone data, arguing it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.85 He does support parts of the Patriot Act, however, and said he believes Apple should comply with a court order to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists.86
Military Preparedness & Budget
Carson previously argued for eliminating the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and replacing it with another system.87 He has since backed off that stance and instead wants to give the secretary of Veterans Affairs more authority to “change the current organizational culture, enforce accountability and rein in outrageous costs.” He would preserve the VHA’s “centers of excellence” in areas like traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, and prosthetics while giving veterans “health empowerment accounts” that allow them to see providers outside of the VHA system.88
He has said he is open to reinstituting the military’s previous prohibitions on women serving in combat roles and homosexuals serving in the military.89
Carson has said little about military preparedness and budgets, but he has called for the U.S. to harden its electrical infrastructure and enhance its cyber security, and he also called the U.S. Navy and Air Force “woefully small” while pledging to “invest in our military.”90
Carson supports the idea of American exceptionalism, saying in a 2014 interview: “What is at stake is, what kind of place is America going to be? Are we truly an exceptional nation with a different core of values than the rest of the world? Is that what led us to the pinnacle position in the world? Are we a nation that’s for, of and by the people? Or are we for, of and by the government?”91
He has also said of immigrants to the U.S., “There is such a thing as an American dream and the American way. Anybody is welcome to come to America, but they don’t get to change who we are.” He specifically cited the poor treatment of women as the sort of ideas that should not be brought into American culture through immigration.92
Judiciary & Crime
Carson has pressed the importance of the next presidential election to the future of the Supreme Court. He said that if another progressive president can appoint three Supreme Court justices, “that’s the end of the United States as we know it.”93 He also said he would look to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who “have a record of honoring life.”94
In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace in May of 2015, Carson suggested it was an “open question” whether a president is obligated to follow the rulings of the Supreme Court. He said a discussion of the court’s role in judicial review is necessary “because it has changed from the original intent.”95 Additionally, Carson suggested that “[w]hen judges do not carry out their duties in an appropriate way, our Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove them.”96
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell (Obamacare tax credits), Carson tweeted that he was “disappointed” in the opinion.97 In Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage), Carson said that he “strongly disagree[s]” with the court’s opinion, but noted that “their ruling is now the law of the land” and called upon Congress to protect religious liberty in the wake of the decision.98
Free Speech & Religious Liberty
Carson has spoken regularly on the theme of the importance of the Constitution and the rights of American citizens protected by it.99 He believes strongly in religious liberty and the role of faith in public life100 and that efforts to inhibit the exercise of religion in American society are unconstitutional.101
He has defended the right of people to choose not to provide services to same-sex weddings if it violated their religious beliefs,102 although in the case of a Kentucky county clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses over the same-sex marriage issue, he has said she should respect the law and issue licenses.103
Carson has said he would give the Department of Education the authority to deny federal funds to colleges that exhibit “extreme political bias,”104 which could severely inhibit free speech on college campuses.
Carson has been critical of the Obama administration for what he considers disrespecting the role of Congress and/or violating the separation of powers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.105
He has announced he supports statehood for Puerto Rico.106
Carson believes that school choice and competition are important tools for keeping schools from becoming complacent.107 He has voiced support for virtual classrooms, to let students from everywhere have access to the best teachers,108 as well as support for vouchers and charter schools.109
He called for the creation of one single fund for all public schools and for the even distribution of resources for all school districts, without regard to whether the school is in a wealthy or poor area.110 He has also proposed shrinking the Department of Education and having it distribute more block grants,111 and he has also encouraged the creation of private charitable trusts that would fund school choice programs.112
Along with his wife, Carson founded the Carson Scholarship Fund.113 The fund provides scholarships for students in grades 4-11 for “academic excellence and humanitarian qualities.” Since its founding, the fund has awarded more than 5,700 scholarships.114
Carson has voiced support for the 2nd Amendment and noted that it was adopted in large part to protect against “tyrannical central government,”115 but he has also said that persons who live in populated areas may not have a right to possess semi-automatic weapons.116 At one time he supported a ban on “assault weapons” but has since changed his mind.117 He has suggested the practice of providing drivers’ licenses to individuals who meet minimum requirements could serve as a model for finding a policy that protects the 2nd Amendment while also protecting the safety of citizens.118 Following a recent shooting at a college in Oregon, Carson suggesting training and arming teachers might be an appropriate response.119 He has said the Centers for Disease Control should be allowed to conduct research on gun violence, something many gun-rights advocates fear will lead to biased research funded with taxpayer dollars.120
Carson says he is strongly opposed to abortion,121 stating that he believes life starts at conception.122 After his campaign initially described his views by explaining he “thinks it is not something that is legislated” and that “you cannot legislate morality,”123 suggesting a position more in line with pro-choice views, he said in late October 2015 that he believes abortion should be illegal in nearly all cases, with possible exceptions for the life and health of the mother.124 He had earlier endorsed a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks125 He has said that he thinks Planned Parenthood places a large number of abortion clinics in primarily black neighborhoods in an attempt to limit population growth in those communities, citing the organization founder’s belief in eugenics.126
As a doctor he referred women to other doctors who would perform abortions in cases where there were genetic defects, although he said he wasn’t endorsing abortion by doing so, only allowing women to understand their options.127
Carson supports a traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.128 He has also expressed support for same-sex civil unions for legal purposes, provided those unions aren’t defined as marriage.129 He also has said he would not favor a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s decision affirming a right to same-sex marriage,130 and has defended the right of people to choose not to provide services to same-sex weddings if it violated their religious beliefs.131
In a 2014 interview with Greta van Susteren, Carson explained his opposition to affirmative action, preferring instead to offer modest levels of help to people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and show potential.132 He has criticized the Obama administration’s attempt to use federal housing funds to force local governments to “affirmatively further” housing integration, comparing it unfavorably to failed school busing programs of the 1970s and ’80s.133
He has said he favors de-emphasizing race as an issue and that focusing on it sends a message “that things are not progressing well. And that just isn’t true.”134
As Carson has never held political office, he is subject to criticism for being too inexperienced to serve as president. This inexperience has shown in his frequent inability to provide details of or clearly describe policy proposals.135 Following a November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, Carson was unable to provide the specific names of other nations he might call on to join a U.S.-led effort to fight ISIS,136 and media reports indicate some of his foreign policy advisors have been frustrated over his inability to grasp key details.137
Carson has also made several controversial remarks recently, including references to both slavery and Nazi Germany. In context, his comments weren’t especially controversial, but a skilled and experienced politician would know to avoid such language, and it suggests Carson may commit gaffes in debates or interviews that could overshadow his message. This concern was reinforced by his more recent statement that being a Muslim was inconsistent with being president of the United States.
In addition to such highly controversial remarks, Carson has been an active public speaker for many years. It is likely that many of his past comments, while not politically incendiary or politically damaging, will nevertheless raise questions about his knowledge, temperament, and views – for instance, the discovery that 17 years ago Carson said the Egyptian pyramids were built by Biblical figure Joseph to store grain.138
Carson’s connections to the nutritional supplement company Mannatech has become an issue during the campaign. The company was forced to pay a $7 million fine in Texas for unsubstantiated health claims, and Carson’s paid speaking engagements at company events as well as public touting of the products (though not paid endorsements) have drawn scrutiny, particularly after his somewhat evasive answers regarding his relationship with the company during a Republican debate.139
His close friendship and financial connections with Alfonso Costa, a former dentist convicted in 2007 of fraudulently billing insurance companies for procedures that were never performed, could become an issue. The Carsons have significant investments in Costa’s real estate firm and the families have vacationed together. Carson was one of several who wrote to the judge who was considering Costa’s sentence to urge he not be imprisoned.140
Carson has also been accused of plagiarizing sections of his 2012 book, America the Beautiful.141
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