On Tuesday's CNN Tonight, Don Lemon hounded conservative author Dr. Ben Carson over his October 2013 likening of ObamaCare to slavery and his recent blunt remarks about the V.A. scandal. Lemon acted as an apologist for the President and wondered, "How can you compare a health care program to the brutal oppression and abuse of black people in this country?"
The anchor later asked, "Are you saying the President and this administration don't have Americans' best interests at heart because they're trying to get people health coverage?" He also accused the neurosurgeon of needlessly injecting inflammatory language into politics: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
DON LEMON: ...I want to read what you said about the scandal at the V.A. just last month. And you said, 'I think that what's happening with the veterans is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care providers.' A gift from God? I mean, granted, no one thinks that the V.A. is performing properly, but veterans who served this country may have died waiting for care. Do you regret at all saying that?
DR. BEN CARSON, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Well, let me tell you exactly what that means, because most people know exactly what I'm talking about. It demonstrates to us very easily, without a lot of subterfuge, what happens when you place layers and layers of bureaucrats between patients and between the health care providers. It gives it – it makes it crystal clear what's going to happen. That's why it's a gift from God, to be able to show that to people.
Now, I know that some left-wing people have said, 'Carson said that God wants veterans to die.' But I don't think anybody with any sense actually believes that.
LEMON: I know. But Doctor, you just said that you think that the rhetoric should be toned down in this country. And you know, you can't go over and say, 'She said this about you.' But when you use comparisons like that, and words like that, then you don't really – then you're ratcheting up the rhetoric. You don't think so?
CARSON: It only ratchets up the rhetoric when people misinterpret it. When people listen to what I'm saying, it doesn't ratchet up at all. It makes it very clear what's going on.
Lemon first asked Dr. Carson for his take on the controversy surrounding former Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl. His guest replied, in part, that "Bergdahl was not really a POW. He was really a hostage. And I think the analysis that will go on will demonstrate that that is true. If this is the case, it will be the first time that I know of that we, as a nation, have negotiated with terrorists over a hostage. That sets a pretty dangerous precedent."
The CNN anchor followed up by forwarding the Obama White House's talking points on the exchange: "The administration that they had to act fast to make the deal because Bergdahl's health was failing. And, as a doctor, do you appreciate at least that particular motive of freeing an American soldier, who is, as you said, held hostage?" Dr. Carson answered by pointing out that the administration "already has been accused of ignoring Congress taking this step without consultation" and that "just exacerbates the situation."
Lemon and his guest then spent over two minutes sparring over the ObamaCare/slavery remarks from 2013:
CARSON (from October 11, 2013 speech at the Value Voters Summit): And I have to tell you – you know, ObamaCare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is, in a way – it is slavery, in a way, because (audience cheers and applauds) – because it is making all of us subservient to the government.
LEMON: Now, I have to tell you that I was watching that, and I was really confounded about – about what you meant. How can you compare a health care program to the brutal oppression and abuse of black people in this country?
CARSON: Okay, I can tell you very easily. First of all, if you listen carefully to what I said, I said it's the worst thing since slavery. Now, there are those who will say, he said it's equivalent to slavery, who probably don't understand how the English language works. And it's sort of like the kid on the playground at school, who runs over the one kid and says, he's talking about your momma; and then he goes to the other – he's talking about your momma – so that they can get in a fight, rather than actually concentrating on the issue.
The issue here is that we have turned over to the government the most important thing we have, which is our health and our health care. And for those who are well-read, they will know that many people, who have not had the interest of the United States at heart, have advocated making the population dependent, in order to achieve the – quote, 'utopian society'-
LEMON: Okay. All right, let me jump in there, because-
CARSON: And the best way to do-
LEMON: You said – I understand where you are going. You said, 'And the best way to do that is to control people through health care.' But you're saying that these have been influenced by people who didn't have America's best interests at heart. Are you saying the President and this administration don't have Americans' best interests at heart because trying to get people health coverage?
CARSON: No – no, I'm talking about – I'm talking about the neo-Marxists. This literature is easy to find-
LEMON: I know, but you're comparing it to the Obama administration and to ObamaCare.
CARSON: I am – I am – what I am saying is factual historical information. Now, you can make whatever allusions you'd like to make to that in order to try to inflame the situation, but what I'm saying is quite easily verifiable.
LEMON: I'm not trying to inflame the situation. I'm trying to understand it, because you're saying you're not – you're not talking about the Obama administration, but you're comparing ObamaCare to that, and you're saying that the way that people have been controlled is-
CARSON: I'm comparing ObamaCare to what? What am I comparing-
LEMON: Well, you compared it to a slavery. You said, 'In a way, it is slavery,' because you use it to control people-
CARSON: Did I – did I just tell you – did I just tell you that it's not the worst thing since – that it's not comparable to slavery?
LEMON: What you said is-
CARSON: Slavery is a horrible, horrible thing. I can tell you a lot of things about it. But the reason that this is the next worst thing is because it is taking the most important thing that you have and subjecting it to control by the government. That is the first step to government control of everything. And again, this is something that is easily verifiable by those who are historical – who indulge in reading history.
LEMON: Here's where – here's where most people would take issue, because they would say that Jim Crow is pretty bad; that World War II was pretty bad; that Vietnam was bad, that D-Day was pretty bad; that Iraq was pretty bad; that – you know, Japanese internment camps were pretty bad. All these things were terrible, and they have happened since slavery, and you say ObamaCare is worse than all of those things?
CARSON: I do say that – yes. All of those things are bad, but those do not fundamentally change the United States-
CARSON: This is the beginning of a fundamental change of moving away from a government that is for of and by the people, to a government that is for of and by the government. It flies in the face of what America is all about.
The anchor raised the V.A. scandal later in the interview. Lemon also asked Dr. Carson about his new book and whether he has plans to run for president:
LEMON: All right. Let's talk about your book now, 'One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future.' What's – what's wrong with America, in your view, and why do you feel compelled to write this book, Doctor?
CARSON: Well, the reason it's called 'One Nation' is because our unity is where we derive our strength. But there are forces at work, trying to drive wedges into any crack they can find. So hence, we have all those wars – race wars; income wars; age wars; gender wars. There's a war on virtually everything. And, of course, that comes right out of the pages of Saul Alinsky's book, 'Rules for Radicals' – divide and conquer. We should be looking at ways that we can unite people. And I know that there are some on the left who say, 'But yeah, but you're saying bad things about other people.' What I'm doing is shedding light on what is going on in America.
LEMON: So, you've written a book. Hillary Clinton has a book that's coming out. You were – you did pretty well in the straw poll, and people have been talking about possible presidential aspirations. Would you run for president?
CARSON: Well, certainly, it's not something that I desire to do. I think you are have to be a little nutty to want to do a position like that. I notice everybody who goes in there for four or eight years looks like they've been there for twenty. (Lemon laughs) And having had already a very arduous career, I wasn't looking forward to that. But I do recognize that sometimes we're placed in positions that were not of our choosing. So, you know, I'm keeping my eyes and ears open. We'll see what happens. I'll be very interested in what happens in November, because the American people will have an opportunity to state pretty clearly whether they want to continue down this path of increasing government control over our lives; or whether they'd rather move back to a nation that is for of and by the people. And that will inform a lot of decisions by me.