WASHINGTON -- A couple of weeks ago, I was lured from my customary solitary breakfast to dine with Dr. Ben Carson, the celebrated neurosurgeon and inchoate politician. He probably squirms at the appellation "politician," but I am afraid that is what he is going to be. In fact, a politician is what he will have to be if he acts upon his diagnosis of America. He believes America is losing touch with its founding principles.
Usually at breakfast time I am holed up with four newspapers, eggs and coffee to gain my bearings on the day ahead. Yet, the prospect of listening to Dr. Carson overwhelmed my newspaper time. Besides, I am a confirmed hypochondriac, and Dr. Carson is a truly accomplished physician. Possibly I might gain a new insight to various afflictions.
He was no help to any affliction of mine but he was very enlightening as to what afflicts the country. He has traveled a not unusual course in his political development, beginning as a "flaming liberal Democrat" in his youth -- some of it spent as a student at Yale -- and continuing on to conservatism. He is a conservative today, though not a Republican. He broke with the Republicans during the Clinton years because of various hypocrites in Republican ranks. They thought they could ride Bill Clinton out of Washington for dallying with damsels while they themselves were dallying to the utmost. Dr. Carson's break, however, is not that great. He sounded pretty much Republican to me, though always sensible.
In his soft-spoken voice Dr. Carson frames his arguments concisely, persuasively and elegantly. It is inconceivable that he would need a teleprompter. My fellow breakfasters, who included liberals such as Al Hunt and conservatives such as Fred Barnes, asked Dr. Carson questions across a broad range of issues. Repeatedly, he came down for sotto voce -- "common sense."
According to my notes, he began with "individual responsibility," which he sees as fundamental to the American way of life: That is a life lived in liberty but in responsible liberty. He went on. He is appalled by politicians who pass the buck (President Barack Obama?) or are "hypocritical."