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."
For instance, on immigration he favors sealing off the border by using drones and by clearing a two-mile, path one mile on either side. Then our government should issue "guest worker" documents to foreign workers who would pay taxes, obey the laws and be free to return to their country when they choose. On Obamacare, he would issue at the time of birth an electronic medical record and a health savings account to every citizen. They would use it to pay their medical bills. They could share it with family members, and they could bequeath its accumulated wealth upon their death. Each American bidding for healthcare would bring down the cost of healthcare, which is now the most expensive on earth. With Obamacare it will climb even higher.
How would Dr. Carson deal with Vladimir Putin? He would never have allowed things to get so far along, confronting Putin at the outset, when he moved into Georgia. And what about the questions here in the States, dealing with gun control? "I think there's some weapons that probably are inappropriate," he said, and ever the "sensible, responsible" citizen, he mentioned rocket launchers and heavy armor. "But conventional weapons," said the genial doctor, "I don't have any problem with them." He takes our Constitution seriously.
Dr. Carson had a ready answer for every question, which leads me to believe that he has given a lot of thought to how he might act in the Oval Office. But it was the broader questions that fetched me. He worries about liberty, responsibility and the role of the good citizen. Does it take a medical doctor to think about such things? I have not heard a president think about them in many years. Maybe Dr. Carson has a new model for the presidency.