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Ben Carson brushes up on wet-foot, dry-foot: 'It doesn't make sense to me'

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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,” Carson told reporters in a break from signing copies of his latest book at a West Kendall Barnes & Noble.

The next part of the Republican presidential candidate’s answer seemed to conflate wet-foot, dry-foot with the Cuban Adjustment Act, the federal law that allows Cubans to apply for U.S. residency after spending 366 days in the country.

“And also, recognize that many people have taken advantage of that and you know gotten all kinds of benefits that perhaps they don’t deserve,” Carson said. “There are other people who perhaps get denied things that they should have.”

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.

“I’m not sure that, you know, wet-foot, dry-foot is where the emphasis should be,” Carson said Thursday. “The emphasis should be on people who are trying to escape an oppressive regime. How do we make sure that we aide the ones who are appropriate doing that, and how do we make sure that people who are not appropriately doing it don’t take advantage of our generosity?”

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.”

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 biblical figure Joseph built the Egyptian pyramids to store grain -- instead of to entomb pharaohs -- Carson said: “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: “What makes you think you could be able to find them unless I tell you who they are?”

After about seven minutes, he went back to signing copies of A More Perfect Union. Carson is officially on book tour – as opposed to campaigning for president – but that was a blurry distinction in the eyes of the several hundred fans who came to see him.

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 gushed of Carson. “The country needs a fresh start.”

She read Carson’s first book, Gifted Hands – and saw the movie, which several other people in line noted is available on Netflix.

“He’s marvelous,” the 67-year-old from West Kendall said. “I do plan to vote for him.”

Carson didn’t dedicate the books – something that bothered a few of the people in line – and didn’t spend much time with people. Most seemed thrilled just to see him. They clutched his book and posed for photographs with his bus parked outside.

“It was awesome,” said Annette Trimino, who brought her three children – Tristan, 9; Leah, 11; and Rocio, 12 – even though that meant taking them out of school for a day. Said mom: “This is history in the making.”

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald