Neurosurgeon Ben Carson opened the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday morning with a professorial speech that slammed liberal government programs and policies, previewing themes of a potential 2016 presidential bid.
“It really is not compassionate to pat people on the head and say, ‘There there, you poor little thing. I’m going to take care of all of your needs,’ ” he told the crowd.
“That’s not compassion, that’s the opposite of compassion. It’s making people dependent. What real compassion is, is using our intellect to find ways to allow those people to climb out of dependency and realize the American dream.”
Carson added during the segment’s brief question-and-answer period that he’s “not interested in getting rid of the safety net,” but instead “interested in getting rid of dependency.”
The former neurosurgeon ticked off a laundry list of conservative ideas including abolishing the IRS, protecting gun rights, and limiting government’s involvement in healthcare and education, with each getting increasing applause from the friendly crowd.
“I’m not ready for Hillary, but what am I ready for?” he asked, chiding assumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
He also spoke about his healthcare expertise, warning that Republicans need to come up with a strong alternative to the Affordable Care Act before the party works to repeal it. And he also showed support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his controversial speech to Congress next week.
While Carson has never held elected office, he rose to prominence within the conservative movement with a passionate speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. He’s performed well in national polling of a hypothetical 2016 field — a Real Clear Politics average of those polls has Carson in fourth place.
His CPAC speech is the first in the annual three-day event filled with speeches from conservative politicians and potential presidential hopefuls. The event is seen as an important launching point for likely presidential candidates looking to make inroads with the party’s base.
By Ben Kamisar