Dr. Ben

Ben, the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for
With my friend to call my own, I’ll never be alone
And you, my friend, will see, you’ve got a friend in me

“Ben,” as sung by Michael Jackson

being black and being conservative is a sure way to get some face time on Fox or some mouth time on right-wing radio. It’s no secret that right-wingers have been looking for an Anti-Obama, some nimble-minded African-American who can represent and articulate reactionary conservatism the way they mistakenly think Obama represents and articulates radical liberalism.

As for Fox, nearly every black conservative in America has appeared on the “news” channel at some time or another, and the latest black conservative interest, after Allen West and Herman Cain, is Dr. Benjamin Carson. Network stars have been practically begging Carson to run for president, and this morning he appeared once again on the IQ-unfriendly Fox and Friends, apparently just to remind Foxers that he is still black and still conservative and, by the way, has a book for sale. It was the usual stuff.fox and carson

But Ben Carson himself is rather unusual. Not too many political junkies had heard of him before he kicked sand in President Obama’s face at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast. Carson’s 27-minute talk caused legs and other body parts to tingle throughout the conservative media complex, including at The Wall Street Journal, which was ready to put him in the White’s House. A salivating Sean Hannity asked him if he would run for president and he said he would,

if the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it.

He told ABC’s Jonathan Carl that it wasn’t his “intention” to run for office,

But I always say, ‘I’ll leave that up to God.”

Uh-oh. God, as we have seen lately, has had some trouble picking winners, so the Almighty may be somewhat reluctant to tell yet another right-winger that he (or she) is presidential material.

Carson grew up poor in Detroit with his Bible-believing mom. After some initial resistance, he eventually responded to her you-can-do-anything admonitions and began doing well in school. Troubled with a ferocious temper—reportedly he tried to hit his mom with a hammer and tried to stab a friend with a knife—he figured out how to control it. He got a scholarship to Yale and graduated with a degree in psychology, then graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. At 33 he became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the youngest doctor ever to do so.

He became world-famous for his work on separating conjoined twins, and this fascinating article reveals the complexity and teamwork involved in that amazing type of surgery. He has received lots of awards, including our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2008. He even had a TV movie made about him.

Because of his notoriety as a surgeon and his inner-city background, Carson began making a lot of speeches, sharing his story and God-fearing conservative philosophy with others, and writing books, most recently, America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great.

You can, by now, guess what made America great, according to Carson: Judeo-Christian values and unfettered capitalism. And you can guess that if we don’t listen to this neurosurgeon’s political advice, including lowering taxes on rich people, we’re all doomed.

But what you probably couldn’t guess—unless you observe right-wing behavior fairly closely—is that what Carson really wants, more than being in the White’s House, is a television gig.

According to The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe,

After a several-day onslaught from fans and the media, many wanting to know his potential political plans, Carson has eased away from suggestions he may have his eyes on the White House. The 61-year-old doctor ben carsonnow says the likelihood of a presidential run is “incredibly small.” What he really wants is a second career in television when he retires from Johns Hopkins later this year.

“Maybe if you write about it in your article, somebody will say, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” he said in an interview. […]

Before he left, Carson finished his thought. He would like to do a show that focuses on “educating the American populace about things that are essential to our freedom,” he said in his soft, steady voice. Or he would like to try a show that would bring together people who hold opposing views on critical issues that are dividing the nation. Carson would then help them seek a middle ground or resolution.

“If the proper venue was presented, I would probably accept such a thing,” he said.

Of course! Who wouldn’t rather get paid a million bucks to go on TV and tell people how to run the country, instead of actually going to the trouble of getting elected and, well, running the country?

The New York Times interviewed the new conservative star and reported:

Dr. Carson said he was a “flaming liberal” in college but became conservative through his own climb to success. “One thing I always believed strongly in was personal responsibility and hard work,” he said. “I found the Democrat Party leaving me behind on that particular issue.”

Look, I don’t have a problem with someone changing his or her political views. This is, after all, The Erstwhile Conservative blog. But what really disturbs me about this surgical savant turned political philosopher is that last comment. You know, the one about Democrats not believing in personal responsibility and hard work, which is why the good doctor abandoned them.

I don’t know one single Democrat who doesn’t believe in personal responsibility and hard work, do you? And I don’t see a plank in the Democratic Party platform that reads: “We’re for irresponsible behavior and laziness.”

The truth is that some folks achieve great success or get rich or both and then suddenly remember that they are conservatives and that it was conservatives who invented personal responsibility and hard work, and that if you didn’t grow up to be wealthy or, say, a famous brain surgeon, then you didn’t work hard enough because Democrats said you didn’t have to.

I am sick of that lying meme.

And I am sick of the lying meme that says if you work hard and play by all the rules, you too will be successful and live out your dreams. Not everyone will. Not everyone who does all the right things ends up with a pot of gold at the end. Some folks don’t even end up with much of a pot.

God love Ben Carson’s mother and what she did for her son, but there are a lot of mothers like that who raise their kids to be hard-working, responsible adults who don’t happen to see those kids turn out to be famous or wealthy or the object of Rush Limbaugh’s affections.

And, by God, there are a lot of mothers who raise their kids like Ben Carson’s mother raised him and those mothers happen to call themselves Democrats because they believe that the Democratic Party, for all its faults, is the party that, should all else fail, keep an eye on those who can’t or don’t make it.

Dr. Carson is obviously an extraordinary man with exceptional talents. He also seems to be just slightly less doctrinaire than the average conservative know-it-all, even though he said something at CPAC as ridiculous as anything that has exited the mouth of Bill O’Reilly, when he told the cheering crowd, “We have to resist this war on God.” War on God? How can a man so smart say something so dumb? I guess it’s all part of auditioning for a job on Fox.

In any case, Dr. Carson may get a television deal or run for president or some other political office. But if he really wants to serve people, as he has claimed time and again, I hope he changes his mind about retiring as a surgeon at Johns Hopkins.

We have enough right-wing pundits and politicians in this country and not enough people who can do what Ben Carson can do for his fellow human beings, in the following case an eight-year-old girl:


Everything You Wanted To Know About CPAC 2013 Without Having To Watch

Well on its way to unreforming itself, the GOP had quite a time at its Conservative Political Action Conference:

♦ Titillating evangelical horndogs everywhere, Sarah Palin sucked on a Big Gulp and made a joke about her rack.

♦ And speaking of boobs, Karl Rove, who found himself dope-slapped by the front and back hand of Palin, later, safely back at the Fox ranch, dope-slapped her right back by referencing her fractional governance in Alaska.

Round 1 to Barracuda, but Turd Blossom is a late bloomer, so don’t count him out.

♦ Ted Cruz managed to give a speech without McCarthyizing anyone.

♦ Jeb Bush gave what many considered to be a relatively thoughtful speech, perhaps the only one of the conference, which means, of course, that none of the gathered paid any attention to it.

♦ If Bobby Jindal falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, will he make a sound?

♦ Mitch McConnell said:  “Don’t tell me that Democrats are the party of the future when their presidential ticket for 2016 is shaping up to look like a rerun of the ‘Golden Girls,’” Man, oh, man. Hillary is renting space in their heads, I tells ya.

♦ Yes, Phyllis Schlafly is alive. I think.

♦ Allen West was, literally, very colorful. He said, “there is nothing on this green earth that a liberal progressive fears more than a black American who wants a better life and a smaller government.” He also said that, “Deeds, not words, will paint this country red.” Next year, he’ll work on his letters and numbers, and by 2016 he’ll run for the White’s House. You heard it here first, people.

♦ Uncharacteristically, Chris Christie didn’t have much to say.

♦ Characteristically, Newt Gingrich did: he said the GOP was “mired in stupidity.”cpac 2013

♦ Which brings me to Michele Bachmann, who said, I kid you not, that we would have a cure for “Alzheimer’s, juvenile diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Parkinson’s,” if it weren’t for our government with its “cadre of overzealous regulators, excessive taxation, and greedy litigators.” Again, I kid you not.

♦ Speaking of jokes, Paul Ryan told a knee-slapper:

We are the party of equal opportunity.

♦ Speaking of men who will never be president, Mittens gave an inspiring speech. I was especially inspired by this line:

I am sorry that I will not be your president.

♦ And speaking of more men who will never be president, Rand Paul, like his father before him, won CPAC’s vaunted straw poll, which is scientific confirmation that nuts really don’t fall far from the tree.

♦ And speaking of that straw poll, Richard Nixon got one vote, which may mean that at least one CPAC attendee longs for a slightly softer side of conservatism, or that the metaphorical Night of the Living Dead marathon that was this CPAC conference brought back memories of Tricky Dick.

♦ And speaking of zombie dicks, toesucking Dick Morris told his fellow conservatives that “single white women run screaming from the Republican Party, largely because of our pro-life position.” Unfortunately for Morris, not a single white woman was around to hear him say that.

♦ And speaking of men who make single white women run screaming from the Republican Party, gun manufacturer lobbyist Wayne LaPierre gave us license to tell the truth about him:

They can call me crazy and whatever else they want…

That kinda takes all the fun out of it.

♦ And speaking of the one single white woman in America who is still a Republican, we have Ann Coulter, who said no way to “amnesty” for those brown immigrants because, “if amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election.” 

♦ And speaking of immigration, Marco Rubio didn’t. He couldn’t muster the courage to mention immigration reform, which he is supposedly championing in Congress, before what would have fast become a hostile CPAC crowd.

Rubio’s speech, though, was full of new ideas like this one: “We don’t need a new idea. The idea’s America, and it still works.” Or how about this new idea: “America’s always been our people.” Where does he come up with these brilliant insights? Or this gem: “We still need plumbers.” Yep, that was really in his speech. America still needs plumbers. And toilets. And toilet paper. Wow, the possibilities are endless.

♦ And speaking of crappers, I found the following headline on the “intellectual” National Review website:

Louie Gohmert, CPAC Superstar

That Gohmert, famous for saying stupid things, is a superstar among CPAC types, pretty much sums up the state of the Republican Party these days, although I will toss in a few more examples:

♦ Donald Trump told a bewildered crowd that he had offered to build a ballroom at the White House for “$50 to a $100 million.” But nobody at the White House called him back. “That’s the problem with the country,” he said, “You don’t hear from people.” If there’s a God in heaven, we will never hear from Donald Trump again.

♦ Iowa congressman Steve King said, “ObamaCare has to go.” Wait, let me double-check that quote…Yep, he said that at CPAC 2013. King also put the kibosh on immigration reform by referring to the lawbreakers as “undocumented Democrats.” King did manage to stumble on the truth about the Republican Party, when he said that, “economics isn’t the most important issue.” Nope, it isn’t, what with all that fornicatin’ goin’ on out there.

♦ And speakin’ of fornicatin’, right-wing columnist Katie Kieffer told a panel on “women’s issues” (yes, there was such a panel) that “ObamaCare is sexist,” because men can tell the pregnant gals in their life, “that’s not my fault; you should have been using Obama’s free birth control.”

♦ And speaking of births, Orly Taitz, famous Birther Queen, got insulted by Pamela Geller, a conservative blogger and birther in her own right, who once wrote that President Obama is the illegitimate son of Malcolm X.  Wow, talk about the pot calling the black man a kettle, or the kettle calling the pot a black man or, well, you know what I mean: Obama is a Very Scary Negro.

♦ Finally, speaking of black folks, a white audience member at a panel on what I will generously describe as “minority outreach” —the event was sponsored by Tea Party Patriots and titled, “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” suggested that slavery was good for those ungrateful blacks. Yessem, slav’ry been berry berry good to me, massa!

At least at this point we have a little good news. As you will see in the video clip below, the response to the racist was pretty much disbelief that someone would say something so shocking in front of the cameras and microphones:

But as good as the news was that the young people in the audience seemed to laugh at the audacity of the racist, there was some bad news. The man leading the panel discussion was KCarl Smith [sic], an African-American conservative who leads a group called Frederick Douglass Republicans™ [sic].  Here is a sample from his website:

frederick doublas v obama

Smith, who baited the audience with references to the Democratic Party and the KKK, rather than heaping ridicule on the racist in his audience, sold him a book and made friends with him, while scolding a Russian radio host and producer, who happened to be black.

Here is part of the account from Talking Points Memo, which illustrates that there is some serious racial angst in the reactionary tribe:

Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event’s take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

“It seems to be that you’re reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males,” Terry said, adding he “came to love my people and culture” who were “being systematically disenfranchised.”

Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.

“For giving him shelter? And food?” Terry said.

At this point the event devolved into a mess of shouting. Organizers calmed things down by asking everyone to “take the debate outside after the presentation.”

Brown, who took offense at the suggestion modern Democrats were descendants of the KKK, tried to ask a question later once things finally calmed down. She was booed and screamed at by audience members.

“Let someone else speak!” one attendee in Revolutionary War garb shouted.

“You’re not welcome!” a white-haired older woman yelled.

Eventually she asked a question. It was about whether Republicans should call out racist ads.

Attendees interviewed by TPM afterwards expressed outrage at the way the event turned out. Not at Terry and Heimbach — they were mad at Brown.

Chad Chapman, 21, one of the few black attendees, said overall he enjoyed the event — except “there were lots of interruptions, mainly because of the woman.”

I asked whether he was concerned about the question from Terry and Heimbach.

“No they were just telling the truth,” he said. You mean you agree blacks are systematically disenfranchising whites, I asked?

“I listen to anybody’s point of view, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.

A media scrum formed around Terry immediately after the close of the event. A woman wearing a Tea Party Patriots CPAC credential who had shouted down Brown earlier urged him not to give his name to the press.

She wouldn’t give her name either, but I asked her what she thought.

“Look, you know there’s no doubt the white males are getting really beat up right now, it’s unfair,” she said. “I agree with that. My husband’s one of them. But I don’t think there’s a clear understanding about what really is going on. He needs to read Frederick Douglass and I think that question should be asked to everyone in this room who is debating.”

Yes, the Republican Party is indeed the champion of all those distressed white males, which is where I’ll leave this year’s visit to CPAC, the place where the great Republican retooling isn’t taking place. See ya again next year!

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