Kicking off a slate of speakers at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), retired neurologist Ben Carson alluded to his recently being added — and removed — from an extremist watch list in criticizing what he called the left’s propensity to “relabel and name things.”
“For instance, if you’re pro-life, then you’re anti-woman,” he said at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. “If you’re pro-traditional family, then you’re a homophobe. If you’re white and you oppose a progressive black person, you’re a racist. If you’re black and you oppose the progressive agenda, you’re crazy.
“And if you’re black and you oppose the progressive agenda, and you’re pro-life, and you’re pro-family, they don’t even know what to call you,” he continued. “I mean, you end up on some kind of watch list for extremists.”
Amid significant criticism, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently apologized and removed an “Extremist File” it had posted in the fall on Mr. Carson.
Mr. Carson has been near the top of recent polling on potential GOP presidential contenders in 2016, and has recently secured several commitments for staffers who would handle finances on his would-be presidential campaign.
He rose to prominence in some conservative circles after criticizing President Obama’s health care overhaul in front of Mr. Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. He later said he declined a suggestion from one of the organizers that he apologize.
“It really is not compassion to pat people on the head and say, ‘There, there, poor little thing, I’m going to take care [of] all your needs — your health care and your food and your housing, don’t you worry about anything,’” he said Thursday. “That’s not compassion, that’s the opposite of compassion. That is 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,” he continued. “It’s about investing in our fellow human beings … it is our responsibility to take care of the indigent — it is not the government’s responsibility.”
He called for Congress to pass a health care alternative for Obamacare and praised health savings accounts, which many Republicans have offered as one part of a fix.
“I’m ready for a country that puts our Constitution on the top shelf,” he said to applause. “And to those who have any doubt, that includes the Second Amendment.”
Mr. Carson went on to call for taking “restraints” off the U.S. economy, developing natural energy resources, leadership on the world stage, school choice, a balanced budget and “a fair taxation system that allows [us] to get rid of the IRS.”
He also called for a strong military and taking care of the country’s veterans.
“We shouldn’t submit to the ‘PC police’ and to people who are trying to control us by intimidation and by IRS audits” and by messing with your job, he added. “The only reason they can do that is because we sit silently by — that’s what they want us to do.
“Freedom is not free — it must be fought for,” he said.