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by Clarence Page
Whenever somebody says something like, "Now, I know this isn't PC, but...," watch out. It probably means they're about to say something rude.
In the case of Dr. Ben Carson, the world-famous neurosurgeon and director of pediatric neurosurgery at
"It's not my intention to offend anyone," he said late in his address. "But it's hard not to. The PC police are out in force at all times."
Please. If the political-correctness police were in the house, they were lost among the roses of praise that conservative throngs soon tossed at Carson.
No question that Carson, 61, is an impressive figure. Best known as the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins, back in 1987, he also is well known for his up-from-adversity narrative, recounted in his autobiography, "Gifted Hands," which was made into a 2009 TV movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
Raised by a single mother in Detroit who encouraged him through severe learning disabilities as a child, he became, at age 33, the youngest head of a major division at
But at the National Prayer Breakfast it took his impressive bio to lend heft to his seemingly un-PC, yet decidedly conventional, ideas. Besides his sermonette on "moral decay" and "fiscal irresponsibility," he called for a flat tax, based on the Bible's edict to tithe 10 percent of one's income. His other big idea was to replace Obamacare with health savings accounts, automatically opened for everyone at birth -- and subsidized for the indigent.
Those are appealing ideas to policy wonks, but both concepts were pretty much put to rest by voters last year. Republican candidate Herman Cain's "9-9-9" flat tax idea won a lot of publicity but not much else in the primaries. And Republicans might have offered something like health savings accounts, had they been interested in holding a real debate on health care. Instead,
Yet Carson's speech in Obama's face energized conservatives. "Ben Carson for President," blared the headline on a
His inspirational, Obama-bashing speech at the
"I think Dr. Benjamin Carson," right-wing radio star Rush Limbaugh cackled, "probably (has) everybody in the Democrat party scared to death."
We'll see. As a longtime admirer of Dr. Carson before the conservative establishment found he was cool, I cannot help but wonder how much of this new infatuation on the right is fueled by a novel form of reverse discrimination. I'm not saying that conservatives are only thrilled by Carson because he's black, but they probably wouldn't be nearly as excited about him if he wasn't.
That's fine. Republicans and the conservative movement both could use more high-profile diversity. However, they should avoid the odd exuberance of conservative bombshell Ann Coulter's memorable defense of candidate Herman Cain against his liberal critics: "Our blacks are so much better than their blacks."
Dr. Carson appears to defy such easy captivity. He's a registered independent, not a Republican. In an interview posted Tuesday on the Daily Caller website, he said he opposed both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. On gay marriage, he said he didn't believe "that anyone from any group has the right to redefine a major pillar of society," but added, "Any two consenting adults have the right to formalize a relationship between them."
Stay tuned. Conservatives have a history of getting excited about independent-minded mavericks (John McCain, Colin Powell and Chris Christie come to mind), only to have their excitement cool when the straight talk turns more independent than they expected.
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Dr. Ben Carson, New Right-Wing Hero | Politics