Carson: Our first responsibility is U.S. safety, not refugees

What’s Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s views on bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S., in light of the Paris attacks and the shifting threat of the Islamic State? Carson joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his stance on fighting the militant group.

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    This evening, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, announced that he plans to bring legislation to the floor on Thursday to create a pause in the U.S. refugee program.

    And in the Republican presidential race, just moments ago, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said that he is suspending his campaign.

    Joining us now from San Diego is one of the current front-runners in that race, Ben Carson.

    And for the record, I knew Dr. Carson before he was a candidate, when he was — one of my children — was the doctor for one of my children.

    Dr. Carson, thank you for joining us.

    Let me start with the refugee question.

    The administration says that its process for vetting refugees is the very toughest on refugees who come in from Syria, that they receive additional scrutiny more than any others who come into this country. Why isn't that enough?

  • BEN CARSON, Republican Presidential Candidate:

    Well, first of all, you know, I think we should be compassionate, as we always have been, and recognize that there are a lot of people who have been displaced. Half of the country of Syria has been displaced.

    And we should be looking for ways to protect and provide safe zones for them, and utilizing our professional resources to help them over there.

    But we also have to use a little bit of common sense and recognize that, if we bring large numbers of such people into our country — and they're coming from an area where a lot of the radical Islamic jihadists exist. Those people would be very foolish not to infiltrate that number with some of their own people.

    I can't believe that they would just leave them alone and not try to do that. And we have to recognize that it doesn't take that many people. When you look at what happened in France on Friday, it didn't take 10,000 people to do that. It didn't even take 1,000 or 100.

    So we have to be very careful, and we have to protect the American people. And we have to have vetting procedures that we can all agree on, not that just one group says, yes, this is the best vetting procedure that there is.


    But we know it's a humanitarian crisis. We know that European countries are being strained.

    You have said yourself your heart hurts for these refugee families, for the children. But, in essence, you would turn them away, for the time being at least?


    Well, my heart would also hurt if we allowed people in here who destroy the lives of hundreds or maybe thousands of Americans.

    We have a responsibility to our people first. And when you get on an airplane, they always say, in case of an emergency, air masks will drop down, put yours on first, and then administer oxygen to your neighbor.


    Dr. Carson, we just heard — before we talked to you, Gwen talked to Senator Sanders.

    We also know that Governor Bush said today that he wouldn't ban Syrian refugees from coming in. He called accepting refugees a noble tradition in this country.


    And, like I said, we have to have a vetting procedure that we can all agree on that is safe.

    And I don't think that that's an unreasonable request. Just because one person says, yes, this is the best vetting procedure there is in the world, that's not good enough. We need to have something that we can all agree on.

    And I think the average person who recognizes that you're bringing people from an area of the world where there are very dangerous terrorists would likely infiltrate the group of people that you were bringing over here with some of their own. If somebody can tell me why that's irrational reasoning, I'm all ears.


    Well, Governor Bush went on to say that the problem needs to be solved in Syria. And he and others have talked about putting a coalition together, strengthening that coalition to go after ISIS there.


    Well, there is no question that we need to fight them over there, so that they can direct their attention to that area of the world, and less attention to our area of the world.

    We fight them over there, or we fight them over here. So, yes, we must be extremely serious. We must look at what has worked in the past and expand on that.

    You know, even last week, you know, with Sinjar, look at what happened there. The Kurds were able to cut off the supply routes, and then our special ops people were able to work with the Kurds and soften targets, so that when we came in with our air support, it wasn't all that difficult.

    And that's a model that should be repeated and expanded upon. And we should set our sights on Mosul and some of the other places as well and begin to take back some of that caliphate that they have managed to build, and also to strangle them in terms of finances, in terms of resources from oil, everything. We should go all out for this. We shouldn't just do pinpricks.


    Well, when it comes to ISIS and other foreign policy questions, I'm sure you know one of your foreign policy national security advisers, Duane Clarridge, is quoted today in The New York Times as saying — and I'm quoting — "Nobody," he said, "has been able to sit down with you and have you get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East."

    He was asked about some questions you have been asked by the press recently where you have appeared to struggle with questions about national security.


    Well, you know, I think that's a narrative that people want to paint.

    You know, for instance, you know, this Sunday, when Chris Wallace kept saying, who would you call first, who would you call first, I wasn't interested in answering that question, because I have learned that, if I say I would call Egypt first, or I would call Israel first, or I would call Jordan first, or whoever I said I would call first, then the next thing would be, well, but why would you not call this one first?

    And I know how that works. And that's just silly. What I was talking about is, we have to have a broad plan, a coalition that brings in all of our friends and all of the people who have interests in that region throughout the…


    But what about your own — go ahead.


    Go ahead.


    And then I want to — go ahead.



    So, you know, what I sort of object to is these sound bite answers that people can then pull apart and say, see, I told you he doesn't know anything, when, in fact, you really need a much more comprehensive answer to some of these questions.


    Well, this is your own adviser, Mr. Clarridge, saying that, in his words, you need weekly briefings, in his words — quote — "to make you smart."

    One of your other advisers…


    Well, he's not — look, he's not my adviser. He's not my adviser.

    He is a person who has come in on a couple of our sessions to offer his opinions about what was going on. To call himself my adviser would be a great stretch. And he has no idea who else I'm sitting down and talking to.


    Who is your principal adviser of national security? Because one of our other advisers, Armstrong Williams, has said that — he said you're still on a steep learning curve.


    I am. You know, I know a lot more than I knew. A year from now — a year from now, I will know a lot more than I know now.

    In medicine, we have something called continuing medical education. You have to get those credits in order to be recertified. I think that applies to every aspect of our lives, particularly in a rapidly changing world.


    Dr. Ben Carson, we thank you for talking with us.


    Thank you. My pleasure.


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