CPAC Diary: Feel the Ben Carson-mentum

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 16 2013 3:20 PM

CPAC Diary: Feel the Ben Carson-mentum

If you don't count Fox News, the national political press has been slow to embrace BEN CARSONMANIA. If you do count Fox, Carson has been on your TV every few days, beseeched by Sean Hannity to run for president. Today, as other cable channels intermittently covered CPAC and booked guests, Fox News played the entirety of Carson's speech: A loose twenty-minute riff on "common sense," with occasional jokes that implied he'd run for president.

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It's been known for months that Carson would retire from Johns Hopkins this year. Like I said, Hannity keeps asking Carson to run for president, based on the neurosurgeon's political experience of giving a twenty-minute riff on "common sense" at the National Prayer Breakfast. But the speech was structured cleverly to make it look like Carson was rolling out something new. "If I was magically made president" he said -- cue mock-shock at the applause -- "ok, never mind that!" -- cue a theory of how a different, less benevolent leader, might try to destroy America.

Carson lives in Maryland, with no obvious path to local political office. But if Herman Cain could run for president, and quickly become credible, why couldn't Carson? I'm not comparing the two non-politicians just because they're both black men who led successful careers then dove into politics. It's just reality: Conservative voters have a soul-deep desire for a black individualist to take it to Obama specifically and liberals in general.

"I'd have a lot of hope in the future if Dr. Ben Carson ran for president," said Doris Ellen Eisen, a 70-year old Maryland designer. "I saw that prayer breakfast speech on a replay, and I was just inspired. It was the president on the one side, Biden in the middle, Carson at the podium. It looked like an Oreo cookie!"

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.