Ben Carson’s run
Like every other potential 2016 presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson is currently floating in the placid lagoon of maybe, the golden moment of tranquility when everyone is running for President, and no one is. There are signs that Dr. Carson is seriously considering a run… and maybe not as a Republican. The Washington Times recounts his appearance at the National Press Club on Wednesday:
The retired neurosurgeon and Washington Times columnist, who has already sparked an independent presidential draft movement, said he had been looking forward to playing golf and learning new languages after hanging up his scalpel, but said it appears now “God has different plans for me.”
The comment drew a standing ovation and raucous applause from those who attended the luncheon. Dr. Carson was joined by his wife, Candy, at the event, which was one stop on a national tour promoting his book, “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future.”
Dr. Carson rose to political prominence last year after having been invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast. The author and speaker also attended CPAC earlier this year, placing third in the 2014 Washington Times/CPAC Presidential Straw Poll with 9 percent of the vote.
Dr. Carson played coy about committing to any national party, saying he has in the past been a “flaming liberal Democrat” as well as a “very conservative Republican,” noting he’s currently an independent.
“We have to remember that we are Americans first,” he said. “Not that we are Democrats. Not that we are Republicans. Not that we are Independents.”
Dr. Carson said he “doesn’t care” who supports him so long as he has the support of God.
“One of the reasons this nation rose to the pinnacle of the world so fast is that we live by godly principles, loving your fellow man, … of having values and principles that govern your life,” he said. “If we can regain that then we truly will have one nation under God, indivisible for liberty and justice for all.”
Carson’s columns at the Washington Times can be found here. He writes, as he tends to speak, with his heart on his sleeve, which can be dicey business for a political candidate – if he runs, he would be wise to hire opposition researchers to scour his columns and spotlight everything likely to come back and haunt him. The American people always say they want plain-spoken candor from candidates, but our political machinery does not reward it.
The true “outsider candidate” is a romantic notion that rarely survives contact with election reality, in part because outsiders leave long paper trails of impolitic statements and deeds. That’s a shame, really, and it’s up to the American people to adjust their tastes accordingly, or we’ll be doomed to an endless series of elections dominated by professional politicians who spent decades grooming themselves for high office. As you may have noticed, members of this insular aristocracy don’t always – don’t usually - prove as good at governance as they were at winning elections, but their skill at dominating the election process is formidable indeed. Quite a few nice guys who meant well, and even some bona fide geniuses, have gone down with looks of surprise on their faces as the Beltway sharks came at them.
One problem with the outsider candidate is that they sometimes underestimate the importance of establishing and defending concrete positions, rather than discussing how they look at a controversial issue. Such was the case with Dr. Carson and gun control, a topic he took another swing at during the National Press Club luncheon, as transcribed by Raw Story:
“I think there are some weapons that are probably not appropriate, like, you know, tanks,” he explained. “And I’m not sure that people should have a rocket launcher in their bedroom. But, you know, conventional weapons, I don’t have any problem with.”
Carson observed that the point of the Second Amendment was to “give the populous the ability to assist the military in case of a foreign invasion.”
“But more importantly, it’s there because if we ever have a rogue government that wants to dominate the people, the people will have the ability to defend themselves,” he insisted. “We must always protect that right.”
When it came to “assault weapons,” Carson said that conservatives who refused to engage in conversations about gun control had an “infantile attitude.”
It actually is legal for civilians to own a tank, and they don’t really crop up as instruments of crime very often, due in part to the cost/benefit ratio of purchasing a tank to hold up banks, and their unsuitability as high-speed getaway vehicles. I suspect most average folks would be broadly sympathetic with the thought process Carson runs through here, but neither of the sides engaged deeply in the gun-control issue would be happy with it. Second Amendment defenders are mightily weary of hyperbole about bazookas, while gun-control activists are going to flip out over Carson’s talk about people defending themselves from rogue government.
In the end, it will matter not just that Carson thinks some lines need to be drawn, but exactly where he believes those lines should be. As well as he might present his philosophy about trusting the American people to make the right decisions for themselves, the difference between philosophers and serious candidates lies in the details. I can’t help thinking back to how the last election’s exciting outsider candidate, Herman Cain, ran into quicksand on abortion after one problematic television interview – an issue where he was previously thought to be strong. Those who aspire to the bully pulpit of the Presidency had best be ready to tell the voters who they plan to bully and pulp.
The average observer, unschooled in the bleak arts of politics, might think it would be difficult for Democrats to savage Carson with their usual venom, since he would be a black man running to succeed the First Black President, and he’s such a wise and affable fellow. I hear that observation all the time from non-political friends who catch a bit of Carson on TV and exclaim, “I like him! How could anyone say anything mean about him!” Here’s your answer, folks, courtesy of Dana Milbank at the Washington Post:
Neurosurgeon-turned-conservative icon Ben Carson said in a visit to the capital Wednesday that God’s plan for him is to teach Americans that “our strength is in our unity and we need to stop fighting each other.”
What a noble sentiment! And how much nobler it would be if Carson’s time on the national stage hadn’t been devoted to exactly the opposite.
In the 16 months since his speech to the National Prayer Breakfast made him an instant conservative celebrity, he has drawn a parallel between same-sex marriage, and pedophilia and bestiality; he has declared the United States “very much like Nazi Germany”; he has likened Obamacare to slavery; and he has called the veterans’ health-care scandal, in which some died while on waiting lists for medical appointments, “a gift from God” because it shows the ills of government health care.
Along the way, Carson has exhibited the demagogue’s belief that those who don’t agree with him aren’t just wrong: They are un-American and dangerous.
It’s hilarious to hear defenders of Barack Obama – the most divisive President of modern times, a man who can’t give a speech without dividing Americans into groups and telling them to declare war on each other, a man whose Party is currently poised to burn America to the ground with race and class warfare if it helps them hang on to a few Senate seats – criticize anyone else for being a big meanie who says tough things about those he disagrees with. If you review Milbank’s whole column, you’ll see that when he says “divisive,” he really means “disagrees with the dominant Beltway culture and its pet media.” Most of Carson’s alleged offenses are insults to aristocrats with very thin skins, such as the grandees of the mainstream media:
On Wednesday, he was at a National Press Club luncheon attended by a couple hundred supporters, and he used the occasion to impugn the patriotism of journalists. He said that “slick politicians and dishonest media” are “in the process of destroying our nation.” Carson said that “members of the press, just like members of political parties, have to stop and say, ‘You know what, my loyalty is not to this party or that party; my loyalty is to America.’ ” (Apparently he isn’t making such demands of Fox News Channel, which hired him as a contributor.)
He said that his demand for answers about the terrorist attacks in Benghazi and political targeting by the IRS “makes me an American who understands America and what freedom really is.” So those who find Republicans’ allegations on both matters overblown don’t understand America or freedom? Likewise, Carson said the tea party is “anybody who cares about freedom in this nation.” Everybody else must not care about freedom.
Apologies if Milbank just woke up from a long coma, and sincerely thinks Democrats do not routinely insinuate that people who disagree with them don’t “care” about the issues. If that’s the case, the poor man has been out of commission longer than Captain America was.
At another point, the doctor offered a curious prescription for the nearly 50 percent of Americans who don’t earn enough to pay federal income taxes. Carson said it’s “not fair at all” that “this group doesn’t even pay any federal income tax, but they should have a say in how much this [other] group pays? How does that sound fair? That’s not fair at all.” By that logic, only the wealthy would be allowed to vote.
No, by that logic people who don’t pay any federal income tax would not be able to use the power of government to force others to pay more. Carson said nothing whatsoever about denying anyone the right to vote. And even if he had, “the wealthy” are not the only people who pay income taxes, even using the Left’s elastic definitions of “wealth.” Thinking about Ben Carson has driven Mr. Milbank off the deep end. Fortunately, I have the name of an excellent neurosurgeon who might be able to help him.
As for that “America is very much like Nazi Germany” smear, Carson dealt with it capably on CNN’s “Crossfire.” He really doesn’t want to spend his whole campaign playing defense, though, even when he plays it well. I dislike the way our discourse has become an intellectual minefield where one false step can be fatal, but every candidate needs to know where those landmines are, and the phrase “Nazi Germany” is definitely one of them.
You get the drift: the media will go after Carson as a callous hatemonger and religious fanatic, until the media ceremony to official strip him of his racial identity can be completed. Half-finished blog posts explaining how Carson doesn’t really understand what it means to be “black” are already sitting on word processors. If the good doctor wants to seriously run for President, and not just as a third-party spoiler, I would advise him to prepare for the onslaught. If he is looking to mount a third-party spoiler bid, he’ll get far gentler treatment from the media, as long as he’s mostly siphoning off Republican votes. I hope that’s not what he has in mind. If he’s serious about the issues he discusses, it won’t be.