Ben Carson: Refugee program must screen for ‘mad dogs’

Republican presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson speaks at a news conference Monday in Henderson, Nev. in this file photo. Carson said in Alabama Thursday that blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. is akin to handling a rabid dog.

MOBILE, Ala. — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Thursday that blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. is akin to handling a rabid dog.

At a campaign stop in Alabama, Carson said halting Syrian resettlement in the U.S. doesn’t mean America lacks compassion.

“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson said. “It doesn’t mean you hate all dogs, but you’re putting your intellect into motion.” Carson said that to “protect my children,” he would “call the humane society and hopefully they can come take this dog away and create a safe environment once again.”

He continued: “By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly. Who are the people who want to come in here and hurt us and want to destroy us?” Carson is among the GOP hopefuls who have called for closing the nation’s borders to Syrian refugees in the wake of the shooting and bombing attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds more.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the carnage, stoking fears of future attacks across Europe and in the U.S.

The retired neurosurgeon, who is near the top of many national and early state preference polls, said he’s been in touch with House GOP leaders about a bill that would establish new hurdles for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to enter the U.S.

With dozens of Democrats joining majority Republicans, the House defied President Barack Obama’s veto threat Thursday and passed the measure, 289-137.

It would require the FBI to conduct background checks on people coming to the U.S. from those countries. The heads of the FBI and Homeland Security Department and the director of national intelligence would have to certify to Congress that each refugee “is not a threat to the security of the United States.”

Asked whether he would sign such a measure, Carson said he hasn’t reviewed the details. “If, in fact, it does satisfy basic needs for safety, of course,” Carson said.

Even with his rabid dog comparisons, Carson sought to separate himself from the rhetorical divide between Republicans and Democrats on how to talk about Islam amid concerns about IS attacks.

Many GOP figures frequently blast “radical Islamic terrorism.” Many Democrats, including the party’s presidential favorite, Hillary Rodham Clinton, say the phrase unfairly implicates all Muslims.

Carson said, “Islam itself is not necessarily our adversary.” But he said Americans are justified in seeing threats from Muslim refugees and the U.S. shouldn’t “completely change who we are as Americans just so we can look like good people.”

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He continued: “We have an American culture, and we have things that we base our values and principles on. I, for one, am not willing to give all those things away just so I can be politically correct.”

Carson’s comments come days after some people in and around his campaign offered public concerns about his command of foreign policy. Carson tried to distance himself from them.

The chief critic, former CIA agent Duane Clarridge, is “not an adviser,” Carson said Thursday. Clarridge told The New York Times that Carson struggles with Middle Eastern affairs, in particular.

Armstrong Williams, Carson’s longtime business manager, “has nothing to do with my campaign,” Carson said. Williams spoke to the Times, the Associated Press and other media about Carson’s need to improve, though Williams praised the candidate’s work so far.

Carson described Williams as an independent operator who “speaks for himself.” But, Carson acknowledged, Williams as recently as this week helped the candidate edit a foreign policy op-ed the campaign sent to The Washington Post.

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