Ben Carson, the famous brain surgeon from Johns Hopkins Hospital, has vaulted to the front of the conservative star chamber after delivering a speech in front of President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast that conservatives are celebrating as a right-wing smackdown of the president.
There is even talk in conservative circles that this black man with the sterling resume and string of bestselling books may be the savior to rescue the party by appealing to minorities and capturing the presidency.
The conservative newspaper The Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial lauding Carson with the headline, “Ben Carson for President.”
In his speech, Carson blasted Obama’s healthcare reform law — which he has criticized in the past — and the devoutly religious neurosurgeon called on the nation to institute a flat tax, based on the Christian principle of tithing.
“Moral decay, fiscal irresponsibility, they destroyed themselves. And if you don’t think that can happen to America, you get out your books and you start reading,” Carson said as Obama listened, sitting no more than five feet away.
The nerve Carson showed to criticize the president to his face was gleefully embraced by conservative pundits — though some, such as columnist Cal Thomas, scolded Carson for making a political speech at an event that is explicitly intended to be non-political.
“Amazing speech. Move over president. The doctor’s in the house,” talk show host Sean Hannity said.
Carson was also praised by well-known conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, with all of the attention sending his latest book, “America The Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great” to the No. 1 slot on the Amazon bestsellers list. The doctor has also been making the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows.
“Here you have this guy who has been a celebrity minority for 30 years coming out and making the conservative case better than a lot of conservatives can,” Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large of the conservative National Review Online, told the Baltimore Sun, which could be considered Carson’s hometown paper. “Emotionally, that had a really big impact for a lot of people.”
Carson himself said he’s been deluged with requests to speak from around the country since the prayer breakfast speech earlier this month. He told the Sun there’s “an incredible thirst in this nation for common sense.”
“I have this feeling that as time goes on, we’re not getting any more civilized, and we should be,” said the 61-year-old Detroit native, who was named the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, one of the nation’s top medical institutions, at the age of 33. “We’re still running around like the days of Genghis Khan. There are so many important, better things to do and we need to encourage people to reach into the brighter side of humanity and not encourage people to continue to glorify the darker side.”
As for the presidency, Carson says, “I will leave that up to God.”
But Lester Spence, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University, said running for president requires more than making a good speech.
“The simple reading — it’s not right —but the simple reading is that ‘Wow, if we can find someone black and intelligent who thinks like us, we can get back on the path to political success,’ ” Spence said, describing the possible motivation of the Republican Party.
It’s a sentiment that was also expressed on MSNBC by commentator Toure in describing the popularity of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is Latino.
“A human Band-Aid on a gaping bullet wound,” Toure said of Rubio. “A 40-something brown face meant to mask the GOP’s age and overwhelming whiteness.”