The longest 27 minutes of Barack Obama's presidency may have come at the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 7 as he listened to Benjamin Carson's keynote address, thinks John Giokaris of Policymic.com.
Without saying a word critical of the president, Dr. Carson eviscerated the core assumptions of the Obama administration. He spoke eloquently about individual responsibility, the consequences of moral decay and soaring debt, the sinfulness of class envy and the pernicious effects of political correctness.
"From the look on his face, it was obvious Obama was none too pleased," said columnist David Limbaugh.
It must have been especially galling to have his premises challenged by an African-American of such sterling character and profound accomplishment.
Ben Carson was reared in inner-city Detroit by a mother who made time to parent despite working 18-hour days. She restricted her sons' TV watching, wouldn't let them play outside until they'd done their homework, required them to read two books a week.
The books his mom made him read eventually sparked a love of learning in young Ben. But he had a violent temper. He stabbed a friend during an argument over what radio station they should listen to. His knife broke on his friend's belt buckle, averting tragedy.
Ben was horrified by what he had done. He locked himself in the bathroom with a Bible. He asked God to help him control his temper. He found comfort in Proverbs 16:32: "Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city."
His anger stemmed from putting himself in the center of everything, Ben concluded. Once he put God first, he could control his temper, and much else. What happened to him in life depended chiefly on the choices he made, and the energy he put into them.
From then on, Dr. Carson's story is pure Horatio Alger: A scholarship to Yale, medical school at the University of Michigan, then Johns Hopkins, where he became director of pediatric neurosurgery at the remarkably young age of 33. He pioneered the surgical techniques used to separate conjoined twins. He's among America's 20 foremost physicians and scientists, according to CNN; a "living legend," according to the Library of Congress. A movie about his life was made in 2009.
God expects much from those to whom He has given much, Ben Carson believes. So in 1994 he and wife Candy started the Carson Scholars Fund to encourage younger children to read.
In addition to performing more than 300 surgeries a year, his charitable work and an extensive speaking schedule, Dr. Carson has written four books which highlight his love for America and his belief that the keys to success are accepting responsibility for yourself, hard work, faith in God and obedience to His laws.
God's laws offer solutions to the problems which plague us, Dr. Carson said.
For instance, he thinks our baroque tax code should be replaced by a flat tax. The "fairest individual in the universe" said both rich and poor should tithe 10 percent, "so there must be something inherently fair about proportionality."
As for Obamacare, Americans instead should be provided at birth with Health Savings Accounts, to which contributions could be made for the indigent. As people gained some control over their health care, they'd become smart shoppers.
"Ben Carson for President," headlined a Wall Street Journal editorial praising Dr. Carson's speech, which has had more than 1.8 million hits on YouTube. Perhaps the Journal was being facetious. But is there anyone else who talks the talk so well who has walked the walk so faithfully?
Dr. Carson has never held public office -- a yellow light, if not a red flag, for many. But you can learn what a president needs to know without holding office, and we've ample evidence that holding office is no guarantee you ever will.
Doctors, who have "learned how to make decisions based on facts, empirical data, rather than on ideology," should be involved more in politics, Dr. Carson said. Five signers of the Declaration of Independence were physicians, he noted. But he'll run for office only "if God grabs me by the collar and sticks me in that arena."
God may not have to grab his collar too hard. When Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity told Dr. Carson he'd vote for him "in a heartbeat," Dr. Carson responded:
"I have so many emails from people saying that, I could probably finance my campaign if each one gave me a nickel."
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (email@example.com, 412-263-1476).