It's hard to not be a fan of Dr. Ben Carson. His personal story is remarkable, and his common-sense, unapologetic brand of conservatism is refreshing. Given his successful initial forays into the political realm, it's no surprise that some conservatives admirers have undertaken a "draft Carson" 2016 movement -- which even had a significant presence at this year's CPAC. Carson is a measured, accomplished gentleman, so the tone-deafness of these remarks comes as a disappointing surprise:
"I think what's happening with the veterans is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider," said conservative pundit and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson Saturday on Fox News. "And if we can't get it right, with the relatively small number of veterans, how in the world with are you going to do it with the entire population?" Radio host Rush Limbaugh built a similar case this week, saying the problems with the VA, which include reports of misconduct and crushing wait times that have been linked to dozens of deaths, provide only a glimpse of the broader havoc Obamacare will wreak.
Carson and Limbaugh are absolutely on point, of course; we've been advancing the same case since the VA scandal broke last month. It is in no way offensive or out of bounds for conservatives to seize on the systemic failures and abuses of the Veterans Affairs health system -- which the Left has extolled as an emblem of the promise of government-run care -- as a means to warn the country against governmental healthcare meddling. Obamacare's "cost control" measures, to the extent that they exist, rely on rationing. Don't take our word for it -- ask Howard Dean, or President Obama's former budget director. Fully socialized medicine would make matters worse. If we can't execute single-payer coverage for a relatively small band of people whom we all agree have earned our help, applying that model to the entire country is an impractical fool's errand. All of which is to say that Carson's point is crucial and correct. But the "gift from God" phrasing is terribly unhelpful. It makes it sound as though conservatives are reveling in the VA mess, eager to exploit it for political gain. What Carson meant is that the current situation presents a relevant and pressing opportunity for opponents of government healthcare. That's right. Present circumstances illustrate the perils of such a system in tragically stark relief. But this type of anguish and neglect and death should never, ever be cast in a positive light -- let alone trumpeted as heaven sent. Tone and word choice matter, particularly when liberals are hungry for any evidence of a "conservative overreach" narrative to tamp down this damaging story. They used some Republicans' Benghazi-related fundraising as a means to that end in recent weeks. And then this happened. Meanwhile, here's a CNN panel discussing Democrats' muted, private grousing about Obama's flat-footed response to the scandal:
Beyond the fact that Obama's detached aloofness shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone at this point, why is it that Democrats continue to whisper about their frustrations on this front? The system is being abused. Veterans are suffering and dying. The White House has done practically nothing in response, beyond the usual expressions of shock and outrage, followed by obligatory investigations. Sec. Shinseki still has his job. Though the calls for his ouster are growing, it seems as though the president's party remains unwilling to loudly call out Obama's weak response, even though improving vets' care was supposedly a major passion of his. I'll leave you with political cartoonist Michael Ramirez lampooning Obama's penchant for (allegedly) discovering about major news stories and scandals within his own administration from the news media:
For a refresher on why Obama's "I had no idea" excuse is especially problematic in this case, click through.