Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that a Muslim should not be President of the United States, saying that Carson “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
After that ignited the proverbial “media firestorm,” Carson went further, telling The Hill in a subsequent interview:
“I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country. Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”
He qualified his objections by saying that he would have no problem with a Muslim candidate who “publicly rejected all the tenets of Sharia and lived a life consistent with that.”
1) Since the likelihood of a Muslim being elected President before human beings proceed to the next stage of evolution, be it brains the size of watermelons or tentacles in place of legs, this issue really isn’t about having a Muslim President. The controversy is over whether Dr. Carson is espousing bigotry, or just talking common sense, and this in turn is about the bizarre dedication of progressives and Democrats to the false proposition that Islam has nothing to do with domestic and foreign terrorism, ISIS, and world unrest. Thus such a statement is immediately condemned as fear-mongering and bigotry, and the news media and Democrats (but I repeat myself), as well as others, are behaving as if Carson said that redheads can’t be President. In general, Carson’s undiplomatic and clumsy comment—again, he has no business running for President, as he is an incompetent candidate who has no relevant experience whatsoever—provides an easy route for Democrats and their media allies to paint Republicans as bigots. That’s what the episode is really about.
2) I will say, with absolute confidence, that no one should advocate that we put an unqualified, opinionated, politically naive, neurosurgeon in charge of this nation. (Dr. Carson also has dead eyes. So does Scott Walker. I don’t trust leaders with dead eyes.)
3) Carson has a legitimate point buried in his statement. The strict tenets of Islam are inconsistent with American ideals and principles, among them the separation of religion and state, individual autonomy, treatment of women and acceptance of those of other faiths. Treating his comments as if they are the rantings of a mad man, as CNN’s New Day was doing this morning, is not proportional, responsible, fair or helpful.4) Carson’s follow-up statement to The Hill in which he said that a Muslim could qualify himself by rejecting Islamic law in his personal life goes too far, however. A President’s private observation of his religion, or not, is not a legitimate concern for the public.
5) What would be appropriate would be something like the assurances Jack Kennedy made to the nation while running for President, when he said in part:
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew— or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”
6) That should and must be the position of every Presidential candidate, and as long as it is his or her position, no religious belief or upbringing should be seen as disqualifying in any way.
7) The hypocrisy of Democrats and the news media jumping on Carson for this, when so many of them openly denigrate the religious beliefs of Christian Conservatives, is blinding. How many progressives would argue that a Christian who rejects the Theory of Evolution should not be President? ( I would.) How many would argue that a religious conviction that the U.S. Supreme Court cannot overrule Biblical edicts and “God’s Word” also should render someone unable to serve in the Oval Office, not to mention a court clerk in Kentucky? I would, do, and have. Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are incapable of executing the rule of law. A large proportion of the public, perhaps even a majority, would maintain that an atheist should not be President, which is why none of the atheists we have had as President ever admitted being one. Yet a devout Muslim poses more risks to our democracy than an atheist.
8) Ben Carson’s spokesperson is disgraced radio talk show host Armstrong Williams, and having a spokesperson like him also should disqualify a Presidential candidate. Defending Carson’s comments on CNN, Williams recited serial nonsense, arguing that Carson’s statement wasn’t “about religion”—it was obviously about religion—and that Carson isn’t a politician, as if being inexperienced and incompetent at what one is currently doing is an excuse for avoiding accountability for doing it badly. Dr. Carson is running for President, and therefore is a politician. Williams then claimed that Carson just “tells the truth,” as if Carson’s opinion is the end of every discussion.
That’s funny: he didn’t tell the truth about why Donald Trump’s “some vaccinations cause autism” garbage during the last debate was dangerously irresponsible and ignorant.
9) Bernie Sanders responded to Carson by saying, “You judge candidates for president not on their religion, not on the color of their skin, but on their ideas on what they stand for. … I was very disappointed in Dr. Carson’s statement.” Sanders’ statement is far more dangerous and foolish than Carson’s. Any inexperienced and naive tyro without skills at leadership and management can spout ideas—Larry Lessig, for example. Bernie Sanders, for another. Or Ben Carson. Standing for something and having ideas isn’t governing, and it does not tell the public anything about an individual’s trustworthiness and character. Hillary Clinton has ideas, but she also believes that the ends justify the means and that lies are an acceptable—indeed primary—tool of leadership. If Sanders means what he said, then he doesn’t think character matters. That disqualifies him.
10) A final jaw-dropping hypocrisy note: progressives are trying to use the Pope’s religious influence to bolster their various agenda items: pacifism, income distribution, crippling the economy to pretend to address climate change. He is an example of policy and governance being driven by faith, which is exactly what Carson is worried about with a Muslim President. Those toadying to the Pope for cynical reasons are bolstering Carson’s position, though Carson probably doesn’t think so. No President should place his religion above the traditions, culture, laws and ideals of the United States. What the religion is doesn’t matter.