Ben Carson: The unconventional presidential contender

Campaign 2016
by Kent Covington & Mary Reichard
Posted 12/10/14, 03:58 pm

This article is the 20th in the White House Wednesday series by The World and Everything in It looking at potential 2016 candidates for president. Earlier installments profiled Republicans Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Pence, and Marco Rubio, and Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Bernie Sanders.

If the buzz about Dr. Ben Carson running for president is true, he likely would be the only presidential candidate who’s had a movie made about his life, won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and never held political office. Carson is a world-renowned neurosurgeon who grew up in a single-parent home in a poor neighborhood in Detroit.

His mother put a heavy emphasis on her children’s education, and “let us watch only two or three television programs during the week,” Carson said in a speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast in Detroit. “With all that spare time, [we had to] read two books apiece from the Detroit public libraries and submit to her written book reports, which she couldn’t read, but we didn’t know that. She put checkmarks and highlights and stuff.”

Carson became one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons, known for his work separating conjoined twins and controlling brain seizures. 

“The child of Detroit who once saw a grim future became a scholar, a healer, and a leader,” President George W. Bush said in 2008 when he gave Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The 2009 movie Gifted Hands, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., tells the story of Carson’s life. He retired last year from his role as director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Carson told his story in his famous National Prayer Breakfast speech, in which he also offered respectful indictments of many of President Barack Obama’s policies. Carson advocates a flat income tax and is highly critical of Obamacare.

The online video of his speech went viral. Almost overnight, Carson was a rising conservative star. He soon became a media fixture, and he brought the house down at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference.

“The most important person when it comes to your future is you, and the decisions that you make, and the things that you decide to do. This is America. We are free. We can do that!” he said.

After a recent appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show, Carson was asked about the odds of his running for president. “I think the chances are reasonably good of that happening,” he said. 

If he were the presidential nominee in a general election, the Democratic lines of attack that Republicans don’t care about the poor or minorities obviously would not work against him. Carson is an icon in the medical field, a celebrated philanthropist, an author, and now, a leading conservative voice, but he’s never held elected office. And some say that disqualifies him as a serious candidate for the nation’shighestoffice. 

Carson is quick to say he is not a politician. But that skill set is important in running for president. A candidate must have the ability to control his or her message. Twice Carson has made remarks that led to unfavorable headlines. Over the summer, he was talking about the gains of secular socialism in America in recent years. He referred back to Nazi Germany, saying America can’t let the building blocks of militant political correctness and more and more government encroachment lead to a loss of freedom the way the Germans did. The next morning’s headlines said things like, “Ben Carson compares America to Nazi Germany” and “Ben Carson says progressives are like Hitler.”

The bottom line is, it will be tough for someone with no political experience to win a presidential nomination. But if Carson does run, he likely will have an important voice in the process.