Welcome to the spotlight, Dr. Ben Carson. After an enthusiastic welcome at CPAC, the 61-year-old neurosurgeon seemed poised to make the jump into politics. So far, though, he mostly seems to be providing would-be opponents with damning soundbites.
On Tuesday, he went on the Mark Levin Show and said this about white liberals:
They are the most racist people there are. Because they put you in a little category, a little box. 'You have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?' [Mediaite]
As a private citizen, of course, Carson is free to speak his mind. People say more controversial things than that every single day on talk radio. But when your name is being thrown around as a potential Senate or presidential candidate, it's a different story.
During political campaigns, every gaffe or inflammatory phrase a candidate makes is played ad infinitum on television and radio. You can't just nonchalantly compare gay people to pedophiles and people who have sex with animals, as Carson did on Hannity:
Well, my thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It's a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality. It doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition. [Slate]
You can imagine, say, radio titan Rush Limbaugh uttering such a statement. If that's the kind of rhetoric Carson is shooting for, so be it. If not, then America's changing attitude toward gay marriage make the comment a huge liability.
"I fear that conservatives are actually doing Dr. Carson no favors by immediately granting him rock star status," writes Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller. "Sure, he's a brilliant doctor, but politics is different from everything else. No matter how smart you are, it takes time to grow into a political career as a politician or a pundit."
You'd think that as the director of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Carson would espouse a more moderate voice within the Republican Party but, as New York magazine's Dan Amira argues, he has come to remind us increasingly of another conservative firebrand: Rick Santorum, who is staunchly against gay marriage.
In the end, that may very well be what Carson is aiming for. (Though he promised to be more "artful" with his words in an apology on CNN.) "I suspect he'll do just fine, finding a Palin-esque niche on the right to occupy," writes Paul Waldman in The American Prospect. "It may not be the White House, but it's a pretty good gig."