Political Notebook

Carson talks about need for conservative reform, but mum on possible presidential run

Dr. Ben Carson, a potential GOP candidate in the upcoming presidential election, spoke to a sold-out Wilson Theater crowd in downtown Fresno on Friday about his humble beginnings and the nation’s need for a conservative overhaul.

The surgeon, who has not formally announced plans to run for president, didn’t touch that subject as keynote speaker of the annual Sunbird Conservatives Conference. Instead, he talked — to much fanfare from a loud crowd that gave him a standing ovation — about holding government representatives accountable and called for a re-examination of the nation’s social programs. Carson said he used his early upbringing both as an example and to help eliminate misconceptions about where he stood on the issue and why.

Carson recounted a childhood of poverty and obstacles. His mother worked three jobs to support her two boys as a single parent and knew how to stretch a dollar (“I suspected if my mother was secretary of treasury, we would not be in a fiscal deficit,” he joked to several loud cheers). But even though she had only a third-grade education, he said, his mother refused to accept welfare.

“I have no desire to remove the safety net for people who truly need it, but I also have no desire to encourage dependency on society on behalf of able-bodied people,” Carson said.

“I think what we need to ask ourselves is, how do we recapture the can-do attitude that made America into a great nation?” he told the crowd. “Virtually everything that was supposed to get better has gotten much worse.

“Is it possible that we’re doing the wrong thing? That’s what an intelligent person would ask.”