- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 10, 2015

The three most recent entrants in the 2016 presidential race — Republicans Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Carly Fiorina — did their best on Sunday’s talk shows to stand out in a crowded GOP field by taking stances that break with party dogma.

Mrs. Fiorina went her own way on trade policy, Mr. Huckabee challenged the party’s reforms for Social Security, and Mr. Carson touted his outsider status and took a jab at America’s political class, saying they don’t understand “real life.”

In separate appearances on the TV shows, the three candidates showed that they are willing, and even eager, to shake up a Republican primary contest that often resembles a race to the far right.

Mrs. Fiorina, a former chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard Inc., said Republican leaders are wrong about wanting to give President Obama the authority to fast-track a massive trade deal with Pacific Rim countries. Though insisting that she supports free trade, she said she doesn’t trust Mr. Obama to make a good deal for the U.S.

“The devil is usually in the details, and that is particularly true with this president. The truth is we don’t know what’s in this deal,” Mrs. Fiorina said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This administration unfortunately has a track record of burying things in fine print that turn out to be very different from [the president’s] selling points.”

The Senate is scheduled this week to take the first vote on fast-track authority, or trade promotion authority, which would make it much easier for the president to negotiate the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

SEE ALSO: Carly Fiorina breaks with GOP on trade deal

The TPP is one of the few areas of agreement between the White House and the Republican-run Congress. But the deal is in jeopardy due to opposition by many Democrats who say it will result in more American jobs shipped overseas and undermine U.S. environmental laws.

Mrs. Fiorina said lawmakers simply don’t know enough about the deal to give Mr. Obama fast-track power, which would allow only an up-or-down vote on the deal and bar a Senate filibuster of it.

“I think the point is not that free trade is bad. Free trade is good for this nation,” Mrs. Fiorina said. “I think the point is what exactly is in this agreement.”

Mrs. Fiona, Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Carson last week threw their hats into a ring that is quickly becoming crowded with Republican presidential contenders.

They joined Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. Others, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, are expected to enter the contest.

Mr. Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008 and won the Iowa Caucuses, has made the most dramatic break with GOP orthodoxy.

The former Arkansas governor decried Republican proposals to cut benefits or raise the retirement age for Social Security and transform Medicare into a voucher-style program — measures aimed at preventing the popular programs from going broke.

He said that critics who accuse him of sounding like a Democrat are wrong about him and the issue.

“I think I sounded more like an America,” Mr. Huckabee said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

He said it is unfair to treat Social Security and Medicare as welfare programs when people have been forced to pay into the system for 50 years. He said that he has been paying into it since he got his first job at 14 years old.

“I understand the program has some real fiscal problems, but why would you punish the recipients who played by the rules they were forced to play by?” said Mr. Huckabee. “Social Security and Medicare are not voluntary programs.”

Still, his objections echoed those of Democrats who have made opposition to the GOP reforms a top issue in recent elections and have accused Republicans of abandoning the sick and elderly.

Mr. Huckabee said he would back some reforms to keep the program solvent, but he wouldn’t want to change the benefits or terms for anyone older than 14.

He blamed the programs’ problems on government mismanagement.

“I don’t think Americans believe that after having paid all these years that somehow the government that didn’t take good care of business is going to come in and say, ‘Yup, we’re going to make you pay for our sins.’ I just don’t think that is something most Americans are willing [to do],” said Mr. Huckabee.

Meanwhile, Mr. Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, set himself apart by boasting of his outsider status and “real life” experience.

“There have been many people who have been groomed to believe that experience can only come in the political arena, but I’ve got lots of experience — world experience,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Conservatives have heralded Mr. Carson for making a name for himself outside of government, but he faces doubt about whether an outsider can win in presidential politics.

He pointed to his experience in putting together surgical teams for complex procedures, his running the nationwide Carson Scholarship Fund and his service on the boards of major corporations such as Kellogg’s and Costco.

Mr. Carson grew up in abject poverty in Detroit and went on to become a renowned brain surgeon who devised groundbreaking procedures, including performing the first successful separation of twins conjoined at the head.

“There’s real-life experience and there is politics,” he said. “There are some good people with political experience, but I’m not sure they, in many cases, understand real life.”

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