- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

He wouldn’t declare his party affiliation or admit to weighing a 2016 White House run, but Dr. Ben S. Carson assured a wildly supportive audience at a National Press Club luncheon Wednesday that he has no plans to fade from the political scene.

The retired neurosurgeon, who has already sparked an independent presidential-draft movement, said he had been looking forward to playing golf and learning new languages after hanging up his scalpel, but said it appears now “God has different plans for me.”

The comment drew a standing ovation and raucous applause from those who attended the luncheon. Dr. Carson was joined by his wife, Candy Carson, at the event, which was one stop on a national tour promoting his book, “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future.”

Dr. Carson, who writes a syndicated column for The Washington Times, became a hot political commodity last year after speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he excoriated Obamacare with President Obama sitting on the dais. The author and speaker also placed third in the presidential straw poll of conservatives at March’s Conservative Political Action Conference gathering.

Dr. Carson was coy when thrown some tough political questions at Wednesday’s press club luncheon, which probed both his party identification and his thoughts about being labeled a “favorite” of the tea party movement.

“I don’t advocate for what’s conservative or what’s liberal. I advocate for what makes sense,” he said, noting that at points in his life he has been what he said was a “flaming liberal Democrat” as well as a very conservative Republican. He is currently registered as an independent.

SEE ALSO: CARSON: Why the greater good sometimes necessitates compromise

“We have to remember that we are Americans first,” he said. “Not that we are Democrats. Not that we are Republicans. Not that we are independents.”

The doctor went so far as to suggest that any American who believes in freedom also aligns with the tea party movement’s sentiments.

“I hope it means being a favorite of ordinary Americans that feel that they have a right to say what goes on in their country,” he said.

Myra Issacs of Richmond attended the event, unaware that Dr. Carson has been viewed as a potential candidate, saying she had been drawn by the power of his ideas.

“I heard him speak about five years ago, and he speaks beautifully, seems to have some very good, common-sense ideas,” she said. “I think he’s testing the field, testing the waters, to see if it will happen.”

Asked point blank about a possible White House run, Dr. Carson demurred, but stopped short of denying: “I have taken no steps toward such a thing, and I’ve got to tell you, I do not wish that job upon anybody — including myself.”

SEE ALSO: Ben Carson: VA scandal really a ‘gift from God’ to spotlight bureaucracy

Dr. Carson again criticized the Affordable Care Act as well as the current tax code. He suggested the implementation of a health savings account system, where every individual would accumulate credits to pay medical bills over time. He suggested family members could pool resources in their individual health accounts, operating as “their own insurance company.” Dr. Carson said he’d soon be releasing points on how thinks the tax code should be reformed.

Asked about his stand on gun rights and the Second Amendment, he admitted to having been critical of some “infantile” Republicans for using gun rights as a litmus test when deciding whether or not they like a politician. He suggested that some weapons, such as rocket launchers or tanks, should not be allowed in the average citizen’s possession, even under an expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment.

“I think there’s some weapons that probably are not appropriate, like tanks. And I’m not sure that people should have a rocket launcher in their bedroom,” he said. “But conventional weapons, I don’t have any problem with.”

Dr. Carson said political discussion was needed between both sides, on this issue and others, in order to make progress.

“We should be able to engage in conversations about [the Second Amendment],” he said. “Unless we talk about these kinds of things, we will never succeed.”

• Kristen East can be reached at keast@washingtontimes.com.

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