Dr. Ben Carson seems to be the Republican new best hope. The renowned African American Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon is everywhere these days. In print interviews, TV, giving speeches, on HBO, in bookstores and recently as one of the most popular speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He is touted as a potential 2016 presidential candidate and though he is not so sure about running, he is sure of one thing: keeping Dr. Ben Carson in the spotlight.
He’s very good at that. Just look at how he used the National Prayer Breakfast to attract attention to himself last month.
To a packed audience of some 3,000 people at the annual event attended by President and Mrs. Obama, Vice President Biden and members of Congress and millions more who watched his speech online, he began this way:
“I want to start by reading four texts which will put into context what I’m going to say.”
The first text:
“Proverbs 11:9 with his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escapes.”
Then he proceeded to do just that, attacking President Obama’s positions on the deficit, taxes, and health care.
“He (Carson) was visited on at least two occasions and told not to get into anything political,” says conservative columnist Cal Thomas, one of the organizers of the breakfast and host of an annual pre-breakfast dinner. “He was told not to embarrass the president. The people who told him that were shocked and angry. This came out of nowhere. Now he’s all over TV doing a victory lap. There’s not a whole lot of humility there.”
The interesting thing about Dr. Carson’s nearly 30 minute speech was that he barely mentioned religion. Except for the opening texts and a confused reference to Jesus at the end, his speech was completely political at an event that has always been strictly bipartisan. The idea is to bring people together, not to push them apart. If you hadn’t known he was at the National Prayer Breakfast you would have thought he was the candidate at the Republican Convention.
“It’s not my intention to offend anyone,” he said. “I have discovered, however, in recent years that it’s very difficult to speak to a large group of people these days and not offend anyone.”
Then he proceeded to offend some, with an aside “The PC police are out in full force at all times.” Political correctness,” he believes “is a horrible thing. I’m very very compassionate and I’m not ever out to offend anyone. But PC is dangerous.”
Carson started off on education, in his rambling, sometimes impossible to follow speech. He decried our educational system saying it had been “dumbed down” but advised “If you really want to be impressed , take a look at the chapter on education in my latest book, ‘America The Beautiful’ which I wrote with my wife.”
The second text:
“Proverbs 11:12 A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escapes.”
With that message, he took it upon himself to insult lawyers. “What do lawyers learn in law school,” he asked. “To win, by hook or by crook. You gotta win, so you got all of these Democrat lawyers, and you got all of these Republican lawyers and their sides want to win. We need to get rid of that. What we need to start thinking about is, how do we solve problems?”
“Now, before I get shot,” he continued, “let me finish.” He didn’t finish.
At this point it was still not clear what he was trying to say. There was no theme except to insult the president which he knew perfectly well he was doing. In fact, he admitted later on a TV show that Obama had thanked him after the speech and said the address was very good. Though the president may have been gracious, it was quite clear he was not happy with being ambushed by Carson at the National Prayer Breakfast. The White House had asked numerous times for a copy of the speech beforehand and Carson had refused, saying he didn’t have a text and never used a teleprompter. Of the president’s reaction, Carson said to The Blaze’s Billy Hallowell, “I was kind of surprised. Because I figured he would just be fuming. But he probably figured that’s what everyone figured and he knew people were watching.”
The third text:
“Proverbs 11:25 A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
He touted a scholarship program he had set up, “When you go home tonight read about it, Carson Scholars, carsonscholars.org.” He moved on to Rome with its “moral decay and fiscal irresponsibility. They destroyed themselves from within.” When he got to Jesus there was a sigh in the audience. Finally it was going to be about religion. But no: “my role, you know, model was Jesus. He used parables to help people understand. And one of our big problems right now, and like I said, I’m not politically correct, so I’m sorry, but you know – our deficit is a big problem.” That was about it for Jesus.
“What about our taxation system?” He went on: ”When I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest person in the universe, God, and he’s given us a system, [the] tithe.” From there Carson explained God’s system: “If you make $10 billion you put ina billion, if you make $10 you put in $1 . . . Some people say that’s not fair because it doesn’t hurt the guy who put in $1 billion as much as the guy who made $10. Where does it say you have to hurt the guy? He’s just put $1 billion in the pot. We don’t need to hurt him.”
At this point both of the Obamas looked desperate to get out of there. But Carson wasn’t finished yet. He still had health care to weigh in on. “When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account.” He then prescribed the opposite of Obamacare and threw in a few anecdotes, one about the Bald Eagle which had absolutely no relevance to what he was saying. Why is the Bald Eagle able to fly? “Because it has a left wing and a right wing. Enough said.” Huh?
Carson may have a problem though. Despite the rapturous reception he has had from conservatives - “Ben Carson for President” exclaimed the Wall Street Journal editorial page after his speech at the national Prayer Breakfast, there is a group which believes that his performance was counterproductive and off-putting.
“The right,” says Cal Thomas, “is devoid of candidates. They are desperate and they see Hillary waiting in the wings. They see her as formidable, which she is.”
Thomas, a conservative columnist, was outraged by Carson’s remarks and wrote a column about it, for which he has been roundly criticized by many of his fellow conservatives. ”It’s not enough to be against Obama’s policies,” says Thomas. “You have to hate Obama personally. You can’t say anything that is perceived to be in his defense.” Though Thomas agrees politically with Carson he felt that Carson’s speech was “inappropriate. For the representatives of the 160 nations who were there and for the many Democrats who were there – not only on the dais but in the audience – I think it came as a great shock. I have never heard the breakfast used for political ends like that before.” Later Thomas would say “The president felt trapped. It was like a smack in the face. This was supposed to be a non-partisan, spiritually uplifting moment. This was about building relationships, not getting your book sold.”
In splashy stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post this past week, Carson has been rather coy about running for president. “Certainly if a year and a half went by and there was no one on the scene and people are still clamoring,” he told the Times, “I would have to take that into consideration. I would never turn my back on my fellow citizens.”
Several days later in the Post he had backed off a bit. The chances he would run, he said, are “incredibly small.”
Could it be that though he has been inundated with praise and accolades since his speech, part of him realizes he would do well to follow the Scripture of which he spoke?
The fourth text:
“Second Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”