Ben Carson Wants Puerto Rico To Be The 51st State, & It's Yet Another Thing He Doesn't Understand
In a seemingly endless campaign to talk about everything except something he might know — say, neurosurgery? — former neurosurgeon and presidential candidate Ben Carson endorsed statehood for Puerto Rico on Sunday. One of his top reasons to make the island "Estado 51," as he proclaimed in Spanglish? Military defense. Umm, okay. That would make sense if we didn't already have a naval base on the island, which is a United States territory and has been since America won it from Spain in 1898.
Carson told the crowd at a political convention for the pro-statehood gubernatorial candidate Ricky Rosselló that Puerto Rico is "very strategically located for the defense of America, right near Cuba." Too bad that, thanks to President Obama, relations with Cuba are on the upswing. And regardless, just like Puerto Rico, we already have a naval base in Cuba. Maybe he'd prefer not to remember, but it's called Guantanamo Bay, takes up about 45 square miles of the island, and has been in use since 1898.
"We have the Chinese already coming in and infiltrating the Caribbean," Carson told the crowd. "We also have to recognize that we have global jihadists who are trying to destroy us. We need unity." Don't get me wrong. This is not to say Puerto Rico shouldn't become a state — in fact, it would probably help fight poverty on the island — but how would Carson know? If China's the reason Puerto Rico should become a state, I'm going to need him to explain his thinking "otra vez."
Puerto Rico's question on statehood has become a growing agenda item among candidates in the Republican primary. Puerto Ricans, or should I say Carson's "hermanos americanos," are American citizens. Although they cannot vote in the general election from the island, the island will award 23 delegates in the primary. Also, about 1 million Puerto Ricans are estimated to live in Florida, a key swing state, where they can vote. Republicans in Puerto Rico aren't currently supporting Carson; they mostly favor former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Both have endorsed statehood for the commonwealth.
How long Carson has had these views is unknown. BuzzFeed broke the news Saturday night that Carson would be speaking Sunday. There are two main political parties in Puerto Rico, one aligned with maintaining its current status as a territory and one that supports statehood. Both parties have Democrats and Republicans. Reuters reported that Carson was not invited by Rosselló's campaign but sought to speak at the rally. From what BuzzFeed reported, his endorsement of statehood was a condition for his participation. Also just another odd tidbit: Rosselló is a Democrat.
Carson's comments on Puerto Rico are just the latest in a string of incidents that show he doesn't know what he's talking about, nor does he trust in those who do. Last week he reiterated a claim that the Egyptian pyramids were not used as tombs for the pharaohs but to store grain. Moreover, Joseph, the one with the multicolored coat from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (and the Bible), oversaw their construction. Scientists do not agree. He can't even get his own story right. His campaign admitted that he lied about his scholarship to West Point, a central arc to his personal story. Why would we trust him on any topic?
Regardless of whether or not Puerto Rico would benefit from becoming a state, let's hope they don't have to work with Ben Carson to make it happen. He said he's been before on a cruise. Heck, his kids have even jet-skied near the island. But does that make for presidential material for the former neurosurgeon?