Brain surgeon and sudden conservative darling Dr. Ben Carson doesn’t really mind if you thought his blunt in-Obama’s-face criticism of the president was “offensive.”
And which politician best articulates the doctor’s values? That would be Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who Carson calls a “very rational individual.”
Following a whirlwind of media attention surrounding his unconventionally critical speech during last week’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Dr. Carson agreed to an extensive phone interview with The Daily Caller:
The Daily Caller: Well, you’ve had a busy couple of days, obviously.
Dr. Ben Carson: (Laughs) That’s an understatement.
TheDC: First, let’s go back to the Prayer Breakfast. Did you have any hesitancy about giving the speech you ended up giving?
BC: No, I didn’t. I didn’t at all, because I always pray before I give a speech and ask God to tell me what to say. And frequently I don’t say what I was intending to say, and I said some things I perhaps wasn’t intending to say, but it was the right message. And judging from the response — I mean, there are just millions of people out there who are so concerned, and have almost given up, and they’re just re-energized by the thought that maybe, there’s still some common sense left.
TheDC: Did you talk to the president at all, before or after?
BC: After. I talked to him after. He came over to me and congratulated me on the speech, said he admired me, and we shook hands and he left.
TheDC: Was Obama touchy at all about the specific subject matter of your speech?
BC: He hid it very well if he was.
TheDC: Yesterday, conservative USA Today columnist Cal Thomas said your speech was offensive. Would you agree with that assessment?
BC: It’s offensive if you’re an ideologue and don’t like to have anyone challenge what you think. But if you’re an individual who understands what our government is supposed to be — and that is something for, of and by the people — then it’s not offensive at all when one of the people comes out with some suggestions; it’s not seen as an attack.
But, you know, we have these entrenched entities — and I’m talking about both Republicans and Democrats — who believe that when you’re elected to office, you become some kind of member of the aristocracy, and that anyone who challenges you is attacking you and is unpatriotic. This is foolishness.
And it’s just one of the reasons that we’re in the situation we’re in now, and it’s one of the reasons that I rail so much against the whole political correctness stuff that’s perpetrated largely by the media, quite frankly. And they need to recognize that they have a much higher calling: a calling to speak the truth no matter where it comes from. A calling not to pick sides and not to try to influence people’s opinions, but rather just to provide the facts. And if they ever could get back to that high calling, I think things would go much better.
TheDC: You mentioned during your speech that there are some intelligent people leading this country. Do you consider President Obama among those?
BC: I think he’s very intelligent, absolutely. I would hope that at some point he would open himself to more dialogue and that’s why I gave the eagle analogy. We need that wisdom from both sides and when we try to solve a problem, we need to ask, what’s important to this side and what’s important to this side? And we need to move toward something that both can agree with. That’s what real leadership is about.
TheDC: Are there any politicians who are currently in office who speak eloquently to the ideals that you have?
BC: I certainly like Marco Rubio. I think he’s a very, very rational individual. But I’m sure there are many rational people on both sides of the aisle. And one of the things that I would hope that the controversy that has been stirred up here will help us to understand is that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
And we need to be asking ourselves questions like, “What is the problem that we’re trying to solve?”
So if we’re trying to solve a horrible budgetary deficit, then we should say, “How do you solve that problem? Do we spend more money? Do we do more stimulus?”
Well, if you’re going to do more stimulus, you have to ask yourself, “Where does that money come from?” Either it comes from borrowing, because we don’t have the money, or it comes from more taxes. In either case, we’re taking money out of a productive segment and putting it into government. That doesn’t make any sense.
TheDC: The president will give the State of the Union address tonight and in the first lady’s box will be middle-class families, and the president will talk about how their day-to-day lives are benefited by his policies. What do you expect out of the State of the Union? What do you hope for?
BC: Well, I would hope that he would moderate his tone and recognize that he is the president of all the people, not just of a particular constituency and he needs to stopping thinking of people who oppose him as the enemy. He’s actually said that in some of his speeches: ‘The enemy.” That’s un-presidential, and I would hope that he would begin to move away from that — and start to think more about a legacy.
If he really wants to be successful, we need to get this economy moving. And you’re not going to get the economy moving by just taxing people and regulating people and proclaiming that the economy is better when it isn’t. That doesn’t work. And I think, from the responses that I’ve been getting, that is quite well-known by a very large segment of our population.
TheDC: Yesterday, you said that in June you’ll be retiring from your surgery work to focus on other aspects of your professional life. Is a political run a possibility for you?
BC: I detest politics, to be honest with you. It’s a cesspool. And I don’t think I would fare well in that cesspool because I don’t believe in political correctness and I certainly don’t believe in dishonesty. So, the only way I would ever end up in the political arena is by appointment or draft, but I would never get into that cesspool.
TheDC: Wouldn’t it take good people entering the arena to clean up the process?
BC: It might take some good people, but I don’t think I’m going to be one of them. I would prefer to just continue to speak about truth and to speak about what makes sense.
If people could just understand the history of our nation, and why it was founded, which is the reason that I wrote “America, The Beautiful” — and I’m glad people are starting to read it now — they’d begin to understand who we are. And if they understood who we are, they would not be so easily duped by people who say things, and then don’t do them. And who create warfare between various portions of the populace in order to increase their own power. And who take advantage of the fact that people, basically, are lacking in knowledge.
TheDC: How did you react to President Obama’s re-election?
BC: I was actually surprised. I actually thought there were more people who perhaps were looking for a different direction and policies that would actually lead to growth, and that that’s how we get the deficit under control, as opposed to just squeezing more and more of what we have. But apparently that was not the case.
TheDC: You mentioned education a lot during the speech, and a well-informed public. Do you think that the public is ill-informed and that it led to the president’s re-election?
BC: Well, all you have to do is look at some of those segments that Jay Leno does (laughs), where he asks basic questions. As I alluded to in the speech, you look at a 6th-grade exit exam from the 1800s and you look at the kinds of things people were expected to know. I mean, if you were to pose those questions to people, they’d say, “That’s ridiculous. How can you expect me to know that?”
Yes, we have dumbed things down enormously and we need to get them back to the right level. Quite frankly, having an uninformed populace works extremely well, particularly when you have a media that doesn’t understand its responsibility and feels more like it’s an arm of a political party. They can really take advantage of an uninformed populace.
TheDC: Last question. Your national profile, which already existed, has risen back into the spotlight, and now over the past week you’ve become a kind of glowing light among conservatives. They’ve certainly responded well to the speech that you gave. Outside of politics, do you expect in the next year that you will make a concerted effort to be more a part of the national conversation?
BC: Absolutely. I’m thinking about it. I will make more television appearances and engage in the conversations, and try to bring the conversation back to the actual solution of problems as opposed to the political ideology that seems to prevail.