The man certainly does know his way around a Hitler hypothetical. Just ask his own campaign manager.
“It’s an example [Carson] has been using for years and to be honest with you he needs to find a better example because the problem is as soon as you say Hitler, nobody hears anything else you say,” Campaign Manager Barry Bennett told ABC News. “Its just so evil, so contemptible, that no one can hear anything else.”
Believe it or not, that comment was in reference not to what Carson said yesterday on CNN about gun control in the Third Reich but to what he said a few days earlier on “The View” about how Hitler could happen here. It’s been a week-long Nazipalooza. In fact, WaPo has a list out today of Carson using Nazi analogies in 13 separate contexts over the last few years. Bennett is right that it’s a distraction and will only become more of one now that the media’s zeroed in on it as a rhetorical tic of his, but Carson’s whole brand is refusing to bow to political correctness. He won’t relent, no matter how much the left jeers him — even when it’s the ADL telling him to settle down.
The Anti-Defamation League condemned the comments, saying in a statement: “Ben Carson has a right to his views on gun control, but the notion that Hitler’s gun-control policy contributed to the Holocaust is historically inaccurate. The small number of personal firearms available to Germany’s Jews in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state.”…
“That’s total foolishness,” Carson told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. “I’d be happy to discuss that in depth with anybody but it is well known that in many places where tyranny has taken over they first disarm the people. There’s a reason they disarm the people. They don’t just do it arbitrarily.”
I doubt this is a calculated media strategy, but deliberate or not, it’s subtly brilliant. His single biggest liability with conservatives on the issues headed into this year’s primary was probably his tepid support for gun rights, most infamously expressed a few years ago in an interview with Glenn Beck. Being lukewarm on guns is a bad, bad thing to be when you’re angling to draw midwestern red-meat grassroots conservatives in Iowa. Carson has since come around and defends gun rights as a crucial hedge against tyranny in his new book, but he needs to get the word out among conservatives who may have already written him off for what he said to Beck. How do you do that? You bait the media with Hitler references and trust that their pearl-clutching on camera will carry your message forth. Carson has already learned something valuable from the media uproar over what he said a few weeks ago about not supporting a Muslim for president: You usually can’t go wrong in a GOP primary by upsetting the political/media class. Which probably explains 50 percent or so of Trump’s appeal, come to think of it.
As for the merits of the argument, it depends in part on which “people” he means. If Europeans writ large were armed, that might have “greatly diminished” Hitler’s ambitions. (Or it might not have. Given the lengths to which the Nazis were willing to go to make examples of resisters, plenty of armed Europeans would have concluded that it was wiser not to resist.) If only European Jews were armed, probably less so: A large paramilitary force with vastly superior weapons and no moral restraints on its actions will almost always prevail, as the Warsaw ghetto uprising demonstrates. But don’t lose sight of the real point here. Charles Cooke puts it well:
Whether Carson is right or wrong with his central claim is entirely irrelevant to the most important question here, which is not “can armed people always overthrow a tyrannical government” but “does the government get to deny them the chance to try?” The right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, not a collective privilege, and individual rights do not need to be justified on practical grounds. Just as we would not deny free speech to a man simply because he seemed unlikely to win a given argument, we must not abandon our auxiliary self-defense rights on the basis that the odds might be stacked against the little guy. I’m a staunch defender of the right to keep and bear arms because I have an untouchable Lockean right to protect myself, not because I can prove definitively that I will never be outgunned. Would I necessarily win in a fight against a home intruder? No, I would not. Would I necessarily survive if the government or the police wanted me dead? No, I would not. But I will assert my unalienable right to try against any man at any time in any place, and those who hope to strip me of that chance can man up, head to my front door, and come and damn well take it.
Why deny those brave enough to resist the opportunity to do so?