Will America’s next vice president be a former neurosurgeon and rags-to-riches success story?
That’s what attendees at the Values Voters Summit seemed to think. Dr. Ben Carson gave a speech there and then went on to win the event’s vice-presidential straw poll.
Carson’s life story is intriguing. He was born in Detroit during the early 1950s. His mother was illiterate and divorced at an early age, leaving her to raise her children on her own. Carson frequently tells the story of how she would insist that her children read books and submit books reports to her, “which she couldn’t read, but we didn’t know that!” After a troubled childhood he eventually earned a spot in med school where he studied neurosurgery. He achieved fame for his work on separating twins who were conjoined at the head, and wrote a book called Gifted Hands, recounting his childhood, his emphasis on “learning about learning,” and his career as a surgeon. The book is required reading in schools throughout the country.
This year’s National Prayer Breakfast drastically changed the doctor’s public profile. He delivered a speech several feet away from the president in which he condemned political correctness, wealth redistribution, Obamacare, and the national debt. Did the president know that Carson’s speech would be so critical? “I suspect not,” he told TAS, “but I didn’t even know what I was going to say, quite frankly, until the morning of the event.” He said that 99 percent of the responses to his speech, which came in the form of calls flooding his office, were positive and encouraging
That was February. Fast forward to Carson’s appearance at the Values Voter Summit this past weekend, where a crowded hall of attendees gave the doctor a standing ovation as he appeared on stage. Fresh off the news that he would be joining Fox News as a pundit, Carson expressed deference for the nation’s founding principles and conservatism:
Let me tell you something. There’s no war on women. You think about it: When a woman is pregnant, what happens? People get up and give her their seat. They get out of the way. They say, you go first. You know, there is great respect and love for pregnant women. There is no war on them. The war is on their baby.
Carson’s speech generated a lot of attention, especially for its claim that Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to this country since slavery—“because it is making all of us subservient to the government. And it was never about health care. It was about control.” Carson has no problem with the clamor that this comparison generated. “A lot of people are afraid to say certain things because they will be attacked. I personally don’t care if they attack me, because what we need to do is make sure the American people are awake,” he said.
Misguided attempts at goodwill and helping the downtrodden disgust him. One problem he perceives is the “gravy train” of free things and redistribution:
My [pet peeves] are those individuals who fancy themselves great champions of the people who are downtrodden in our society, and they pat them on the head, and they say, “There, there, you poor little thing; I’m going to take care of you; I’m going to make sure you have the housing and the food and the health care and all of those things; you don’t need to worry about a thing because it’s those bad people over there who are keeping you from getting these things, but I’m going to get everything from them, and I’m going to give it to you, and all you have to do is vote for me.”
That leads Carson to take umbrage with people who foster a permanent state of dependence, and wishes that leaders would advocate policies that help people escape poverty rather than languish in it. And he also advocates that people view poverty as temporary, which he did; one is reminded of Steinbeck’s adage holding that Americans view themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
The strong speech and reception that it received are probably why Carson did so well in the Values Voter Straw Poll. For president he received 13 percent of the votes, tying him with former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and for vice president he led with 21 percent. Ted Cruz won the presidential poll handily, so could this be the beginning of a social conservative move toward a Cruz/Carson ticket?
Most conservatives will probably learn to love Carson. “Ben Carson is not a politician, but he’s a straight shooter, and people connect with him,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which organized the Summit. “He’s not afraid to take on the establishment and the president.” He came out of nowhere because he “stood up and spoke truth to power” and voters will appreciate that.
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