The Slatest

Ben Carson Works Overtime to Avoid Feud With Donald Trump

Republican Presidential hopeful Ben Carson speaks to the crowd during the Eagle Forum’s Eagle Council Event at the Marriott St. Louis Airport Hotel on September 11, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

It seems that if there’s one thing Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson wants to avoid as he continues his climb in the polls is a feud with Donald Trump. The retired neurosurgeon sidestepped numerous opportunities to criticize Trump that Sunday talk show journalists handed to him on a silver platter this week. Carson instead chose to repeat once and again that he never meant to criticize Trump for his faith and reiterated his apologies.

“It wasn’t meant as an attack,” he told ABC’s This Week. “It wasn’t my intention and I’m certainly not going to allow it become my intention subsequently, regardless of how anybody reacts to it.” Trump, however, took a different tactic, telling voters in Iowa that Carson lacks the energy to be president. Still, Carson wouldn’t be pushed into a confrontation.

The tiff between the two presidential hopefuls began with Carson saying he didn’t see how it was practical to have a plan that would involve rounding up 12 million undocumented immigrants. And the tensions blew over when Carson said the big difference between him and Trump was that “I’ve realized where my success has come from, and I don’t in any way deny my faith in God.” Trump immediately hit out at Carson and it didn’t take long for Carson to try to back down.

Carson’s words on ABC on Sunday echo what he told the Wall Street Journal in an interview. “I said something that sounded like I was questioning his faith,” Carson said. “I really wasn’t. I was really talking more about mine. But it was said in an inappropriate way, which I recognized, and I apologized for that. It’s never my intention to impugn other people.”

After Carson talked at length about how humility is one of the most important qualities of a commander in chief, Face the Nation host John Dickerson asked Carson whether he thinks Trump is humble enough to be president. He refused to answer: “That will be a decision that the voters will make.”

Carson is pursuing a non-confrontation tactic after numerous Republican hopefuls, including Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, “found themselves diminished after tussling with Mr. Trump,” notes the Wall Street Journal. In fact, for Carson, steering clear of any confrontation helps him project the image he is trying to establish himself as “the anti-Trump.” Carson said he doesn’t know whether Trump will accept his efforts to make peace. “It will depend on what kind of person he is,” he told the Journal. And what kind of person does Carson think Trump is? “I don’t know … I guess we’ll find out.”