Remember how many voices in the conservative press told us not to worry about our lackluster presidential choices in 2012, because an embarrassment of riches was waiting in the wings for 2016? Well, we’re halfway to the next election, and if the groundswell of conservatives seeking to draft yet another candidate who’s never held elected office for leader of the free world is any indication, apparently the base doesn’t find the 2016 dream bench so dreamy after all.
The latest buzz revolves around distinguished neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who became an overnight conservative sensation when he dared to publicly scrutinize (among other things) the deep flaws of ObamaCare—with Barack Obama himself sitting just a few feet away. Since then, he’s articulated intelligent, conservative, and fearless insights on a wide range of issues. Add in the fact that he saves lives for a living and the “DC outsider” mystique that’s all the rage these days, and a “Carson for President” movement was all but inevitable.
Dr. Carson’s appeal is undeniable—he’s clearly a thoughtful man of deep character, impressive professional achievement, and sound judgment that would be desperately welcome in the White House. He would also be clearly preferable to several of his more “realistic” competitors, who have been tarnished by political capitulation and strategic ineptitude.
However, keep in mind that the desperation for different has almost always ended up burning conservatives, because we rush into our would-be saviors’ arms too quickly to really vet them. Accomplished though he is, Carson has never held a political office before. And as many things as he’s right about, he’s not true-blue Tea Party on everything. Simply put, there are many more facts to be learned and pros and cons to be weighed before any responsible decision can be made on his potential candidacy.
It’s great that conservatives are looking outside the Beltway for the next generation of leaders, but now more of us need to think outside the box for exactly how to use those leaders. That starts with recognizing the real reason we wound up with John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. It wasn’t because of some shadowy “Establishment” conspiracy to disenfranchise us, it was because too many Republican candidates put their egos before the greater good, dividing the base and spreading the votes that could have defeated the eventual nominees across too many supposed True-Con Alternatives.
In a field that could very well see Ted Cruz, Allen West, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum all fight for much of the same audience, Ben Carson the presidential candidate would only divide voters further. But the presidency and/or VP aren’t the only leadership slots we should be considering him for.
The best course of action would be for a conservative candidate to win Carson over and recruit him to be his nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary—and announce it sooner rather than later. That would lock Carson in as a devastating campaign surrogate on the issue of ObamaCare and signal to voters the seriousness the candidate’s administration would bring to dismantling and replacing it—a promise that meaningful results would follow the critiques and condemnations. Can’t you just imagine the impact of Carson surgically eviscerating Kathleen Sebelius’s many scandalously-inept press conferences and testimonies, then explaining how he’d clean house as her successor?
Focusing the good doctor’s knowledge, charisma, and eloquence in an area where his moral and professional authority are most unquestionable—and were unanimously acknowledged before Carson’s politics became known—would maximize the good he could do while minimizing the potential complications.
Sure, the professional strategists would probably object that cabinet nominees are the sort of choices you keep close to the chest until safely in office, but that’s all the more reason to do it—the contrast between candidly promising the American people what they can expect versus keeping them in the dark for assumed political expedience.
Dr. Carson has suggested he may be starting to hear the call to serve his country, and I believe he is. But any good doctor knows the right cure typically only works if it’s applied precisely. Assembling a policy dream team, starting with Secretary Ben Carson, to cure the federal government of the liberal disease would be a strong indicator of which presidential candidate we should rally around.