Ben Carson’s CPAC speech today was catnip for his fans. The retired neurosurgeon and Fox News contributor fired up the standing-room-only crowd with a fiery discourse on the dangers of political correctness and the importance of restoring conservative prominence in America.
“It’s time for people to stand up and proclaim what they believe, and stop being bullied,” he said to cheers.
He spent much of his talk tearing into critics who have gone after perceived gaffes.
“I will continue to defy the PC police, who have tried on many occasions to shut me out,” he said. “I actually find them pretty amusing. I still believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
He then excoriated said police for twisting his words. He wasn’t afraid to touch on a subject many CPAC speakers have dodged: gay marriage. Carson emphasized that the suggestion he thinks gay marriage is comparable to bestiality is absurd.
“That’s preposterous,” he said. “Of course they’re not the same thing, anybody who believes that is a dummy.”
But he didn’t walk back his opposition to same-sex unions.
“Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else,” he said. “But they don’t get extra rights.”
The speech also focused on the national debt, with a call for political action. Carson didn’t mince words about federal spending.
“The only way we get out of that, frankly, is we have to know who our representatives are,” he said. “And the ones who are voting to keep raising that debt ceiling, get them out of office.”
Though he didn’t name names, many may see the line as a thinly veiled jab at Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, members of the Senate Republican leadership and CPAC speakers who voted for cloture on the latest debt-ceiling hike.
But Carson also called for unity among Republicans: “When we get through with the primary season, if your person hasn’t won, you can call them what you want to call them — you can call them a RINO, you can call them a teabagger, you can call them whatever you want — vote for them! We need those people!”
That drew raucous applause.
Carson has a growing cadre of devoted fans who for months have been agitating for him to launch a presidential bid. He’s been coy about White House ambitions, but has also indicated that he hasn’t ruled out a run.
“My hope, obviously, is that someone else will really catch fire and generate a great deal of enthusiasm,” he told the Hill’s Alexandra Jaffe. “If that doesn’t happen in another year and there’s still a lot of people clamoring for another option, then I will have to really look seriously at it.”