There are all kinds of oddities to Ben Carson’s presidential platform, but his affinity for spying on Americans is arguably the strangest. Over the summer, for example, the candidate told a group of Republican voters he was “thinking very seriously” about adding “a covert division of people who look like the people in this room, who monitor what government people do.”
A few months later, the retired physician said he intends to use the federal Department of Education to “monitor our institutions of higher education” to look for political bias in classrooms. If the Carson administration found on-campus speech it didn’t like, the Republican would cut off universities’ federal funding.
Yesterday, the Des Moines Register’s editorial board asked what in the world Carson is talking about. His response didn’t help.
Ben Carson suggested on Wednesday that the Department of Education and other government agencies should secretly enter classrooms, libraries and other government offices to track instances of political bias and inefficiency. […]When pressed by an editorial writer whether surreptitious federal investigations into college classroom discussions would amount to policing people’s thoughts, Carson answered that such action is appropriate any time federal money is involved.
As the candidate sees it, federal officials should “surreptitiously” investigate professors who are accused of using political speech Carson considers “extreme.”
And then he went just a little further, raising the prospect of secret monitoring of other public agencies.
“I believe in the secret shopper concept for all government agencies,” he said. “I believe that there should be people out there who are acting as consumers and seeing if we are taking care of them appropriately.”He went on, “Not just classrooms and libraries, but anything that the taxpayers are paying for. We ought to be monitoring it and making sure it is done appropriately.”
I realize, of course, that Carson’s campaign is unraveling, his public support is steadily collapsing, and the odds of him actually becoming president are quickly approaching zero.
But Carson still has admirers, and I’d love to hear one of them offer a defense for the candidate’s plans for domestic federal spying and how it fits into a model of small, limited government.