Is Dr. Ben Carson running for president?
By now, most of us have seen Dr. Ben Carson’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. It has become an absolute sensation. (If you haven’t seen it, it is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.)
There were numerous touching personal reflections, amusing anecdotes, and powerful parables, all of which helped to make it an excellent and memorable speech. His forceful jeremiad against political correctness got things rolling. His deep concerns about the dumbing down of education touched everyone in the room (or at least everyone not in the thrall of the teachers unions and the millions they spend on politics every year). His cracks against lawyers were pointed, but very funny.
But the reason this specchs has gone so viral is because of Carson’s willingness to speak his mind so frankly with President Obama sitting right there. Carson expressed beliefs and positions clearly at odds not only with Barack Obama’s approach as president, but with his entire world view. It was clear from Obama’s reaction—slow to start clapping, late to stand for the ovation, and one of the first to still back down even as the ovation continued—that he was not happy about being challenged in this way. Which, of course, has only added to many people’s glee about Carson’s courage.
It’s hard to decide which was braver, or more effective. Was it . . .
Carson’s trenchant comparison of America to ancient Rome, and his talk of our irresponsible deficit and debt, with President Debt sitting right there,
his call for flat taxation and equal treatment for all, rich and poor, with President Tax-the-Rich sitting right there, or
his call for HSAs with President Obamacare sitting right there?
Whatever you choose, Americans across the country were tremendously taken with the speech. Some are saying that he has restored their hope:
But as much as he appreciates the media attention to his message, he says the “most touching responses to my speech have come from elderly Americans, who told me they had given up on our nation, and now they feel that maybe there’s a chance.”
More strikingly, some are now asking him to run for president. But would he? So far, our only indication is this:
As I wrap up the interview, I ask Carson if he is tempted to run for political office. He recalls that in 2010 he was asked by Bob Ehrlich, the former Republican governor of Maryland, who was then attempting a comeback, to join his ticket and run for lieutenant governor. But Carson declined. “It wasn’t right for him,” Ehrlich told me this week. “Now I think his platform is national and his message speaks to everyone.” Carson didn’t reveal his plans, but he did note that he is retiring from active surgery in June and that that “does open a lot of possibilities for me.”
Perhaps he is just having fun with it. It is clear that he has a lot of solutions, but his style and rhetoric do not, at this time, seem like those of a man planning a run for the highest office in the land. Then again, perhaps it’s not something he even seriously contemplated until now.
In any event, the nation could certainly do a lot worse. In fact, we are doing a lot worse right now.