Dr. Ben Carson, famed neurosurgeon and 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday and doubled down on his earlier remarks concerning Muslims and how those who practice Islam should not be president of the United States — unless they rejected Islam. When Jake Tapper asked if he would like to clarify his remarks, he did so, basically by underscoring what he had previously told Chuck Todd of NBC News. But Tapper missed an obvious question that should have been raised with the good doctor…
CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday (September 27) replayed the segment on NBC’s “Meet The Press” where Ben Carson said, when asked if he thought Islam was “consistent with the constitution” (words Carson himself had just used in the interview): “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation” and would “absolutely not agree with that.” Carson told Tapper that people should read the transcript, but Tapper pressed, saying that: “He didn’t ask you about Islam, if you thought Islam was consistent with the Constitution, and you said Muslims, that you would have a problem with a Muslim being president.”
Carson responded: “I would have problems with somebody who embraced all the doctrines associated with Islam. If they’re not willing to reject, you know, sharia and all the portions of it that are talked about in the Koran, if they’re not willing to reject that and subject that to American values and the Constitution, then of course I wouldn’t. And I would ask you, would you be willing to do that? Would you be willing to advocate for somebody that would not do that. Probably not.”
Todd replied that he didn’t assume that an individual practicing Islam would place their religion ahead of the Constitution. He then reminded Carson of the Constitution also requires no religious test to run for president.
Carson said he made clear in his NBC News interview the criteria for which it would be acceptable for people of any religion and/or background to run for president. When Tapper pointed out that many Muslims found Carson’s remarks offensive, Carson said that his statement “stands. Is it possible that maybe the media thinks that it’s a bigger deal than the American people do?”
This is an all too common response by politicians (and yes, it is past time those running for president like Ben Carson and Donald Trump are referred to as non-politicians, because they most certainly are), a sort of blame it on the “gotcha” or the unfair agenda-driven media, when all the reporters are asking for are answers to pertinent questions. In this case, Carson is attempting to misdirect and avoid answering the question by blaming the media for the topic, even though he initially generated the topic with his exclusionary comments.
Tapper finally cornered Carson, asking him if there was “something specific about being a Muslim that you have to reject Islam in order to be the president?”
Carson said, “Well, you have to reject the tenets of Islam. Yes, you have to.”
Tapper would later ask what “portions” a follower of Islam would have to reject in order to be acceptable or “consistent with the Constitution,” Carson said, “The portions of it that tell you how you treat women, the portions of it that indicate that kaffir, who are the people who are not believers, are subject to different rules, that they can be dominate.” Tapper then stated that Carson was “assuming that Muslim-Americans put their religion ahead of the country,” to which Carson replied, “I’m assuming that if you accept all the tenets of Islam that you would have a very difficult time abiding under the Constitution of the United States.”
It is an assumption that should be made by voters in the United States when choosing their president, especially if said religion has religious extremists among its numbers. Of course, that would include those running for president who are self-admitted Christians, among whose number there are quite a few extremist sects.
In the midst of Jake Tapper and Ben Carson discussing the rejection of Islam as necessary, religious extremism was mentioned. Tapper asked if a Muslim extremist was any different from a devout Christian or an Orthodox Jew, to which Carson noted: “If there’s a devout Christian who’s running and they refuse to reject the ideals of our Constitution or if they want to establish a theocracy, I cannot advocate for them.”
Tapper then chose to say that he knew of no Muslims who wanted to establish a theocracy in the US and then went on to press Carson on specific “portions” of Islam that would have to be rejected. But what Tapper should have asked at that moment was: “So you’re saying that you could not advocate for someone like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee to be president, a devout Christian who has said that conservatives can ignore Supreme Court rulings (concerning same-sex marriage) that base said rulings on the Constitution — in this case, the 14th Amendment — and who also says biblical law is higher than Constitutional law. If that is correct, would you call for Huckabee to renounce the tenets of Christianity that make him not ‘consistent with the Constitution’?”
By posing this question, Tapper, in demanding an answer, would have put Ben Carson in the position of equating Mike Huckabee with the Muslims he would not want as president. It would have specifically highlighted the same type of religious adherence to tenets within the Christian faith when the Constitution of the United States runs counter to said tenets and the position that the now offending Constitution can be ignored. And if Carson could not put Huckabee in that grouping, for whatever reason, he could be made to look the hypocrite. Because, to be fair, religious extremism in any form is religious extremism, and extremism that ignores the law of the land — in this case, the Constitution — is extremism that is not “consistent with the Constitution.”
But Jake Tapper did not ask that question (which could have had other candidates used as alternates, like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, both of whom are devout Christians who talk of ignoring Supreme Court decisions in favor of their own biblical interpretations of a “higher” law). Basically, all he got was Ben Carson reiterating what he had told Chuck Todd a week before: Ben Carson would not advocate for a Muslim to be president of the United States. But here is the upshot of that non-asked question: It would be extremely interesting to know if Dr. Carson places some of his more religious competitors for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in the same grouping as he would a Muslim running for president.