A day after getting caught off-guard by questions about U.S.-Cuba policy, Ben Carson visited Miami and questioned the practice of allowing Cubans who reach U.S. soil to remain in the country but returning to the island Cubans intercepted at sea.
“It doesn’t make sense to me, quite frankly, the whole wet-foot/dry-foot thing, doesn’t make sense to me because, like I said, you catch them a mile [away], you treat them differently than if you’re on the shore,” the Republican presidential candidate told reporters in a break from signing copies of his latest book at a West Kendall Barnes & Noble.
Carson drew several hundred people in Kendall and at a Barnes & Noble in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday as part of a tour to promote his new book, A More Perfect Union.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has lived in West Palm Beach since 2013, said he “looked into” wet-foot/dry-foot after telling the Miami Herald he was unfamiliar with it in a phone interview Wednesday.
Carson dismissed a television reporter’s suggestion that ignorance of a particular policy might hurt his candidacy.
“There are a lot of policies that I lack knowledge of,” he said in his characteristically blunt but gentle style. “I’m gaining knowledge on them, but I don’t by any stretch of the imagination confess to knowing everything. I don’t know everything. That’s the reason that you have advisers, and that’s why, you know, even Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, in Proverbs 11:14, said in a multitude of counselors there is safety.”
I don’t know everything. That’s the reason that you have advisers.
In Fort Lauderdale, when asked if he would get rid of wet-foot/dry-foot or the Cuban Adjustment Act, Carson said, “as I said before, what we need to be asking ourselves is how do we make sure Cuban refugees are treated fairly without allowing people to take advantage of our generosity?”
In Kendall, first in line was Patricia Almeyda, who said she took a day off from work at Mast Academy in Homestead, a public school. She woke up at 4:45 a.m. and was at the bookstore by 5:15 a.m., she said.
“I feel he’s honest,” she said of Carson. “The country needs a fresh start.”
She read Carson’s first book, Gifted Hands, and saw the movie. That book is about his rise from Detroit to become director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at age 33.
“He’s marvelous,” the 67-year-old from West Kendall said. “I do plan to vote for him.”
In left-leaning Broward, Republican and independent voters meeting Carson said they were drawn by his calm demeanor, inspired by his personal story and faith in God and love that he is not a career politician.
“He is not beholden to anyone,” said Mary Deane, 85, from Fort Lauderdale. “He is not going to give anybody a job because they gave him money. He thinks for himself. He listens to other people — he looks them right in the eye and he listens.”
Carson is one of the many surprises in the crowded GOP primary this year. An Oct. 8-13 University of North Florida statewide poll of Republican primary likely voters found Donald Trump leading with 21.7 percent, followed by Carson at 19.3 percent, Marco Rubio in third with 14.9 percent and Jeb Bush with 9 percent. Carson was just barely ahead of Trump by a fraction of a percentage point in the national GOP primary Oct. 21-Nov. 3, according to a Real Clear Politics average of the polls. The Secret Service said Thursday it authorized protection for Carson and for fellow GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
He listens to other people — he looks them right in the eye and he listens.
Mary Deane, from Fort Lauderdale
Carson faced other questions about things he has said in the past.
Asked about a 1998 commencement speech unearthed by BuzzFeed News in which he said the pyramids in Egypt were not built to entomb pharaohs, but were erected by the biblical figure Joseph to store grain, Carson said in Kendall: “Some people believe in the Bible, like I do, and don’t find that to be silly at all. And believe that God created the earth and don’t find that to be silly at all. The secular progressives try to ridicule it any time it comes up, and they’re welcome to do that.”
Asked about a CNN investigation that couldn’t find friends or classmates involved in violent incidents in Carson’s past, such as his attempt to stab someone at age 14, Carson said in Kendall: “What makes you think you could be able to find them unless I tell you who they are?”
When asked later in the day in Fort Lauderdale whether he had talked to any of those he fought with in his youth since he started his candidacy, Carson said he didn’t want to bring them into the spotlight.
“There are some of them that I stay in contact with,” he said.
Carson was also asked by a reporter whether he felt the scrutiny that he now faces as a frontrunner is fair.
“I think it may be a little more intense than most people because it’s going to be really hard for them to find any real scandals, so they have to try to make stuff up and that gets to be pretty frustrating, I’m sure.”
Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau and McClatchy contributed to this article