A presidential drumbeat for Ben Carson


Ben Carson concludes a speech at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference. (Susan Walsh/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The great-grandson of John Philip Sousa, composer of the famous Washington Post march (yes, you’ve heard it), says he’s raised almost $3 million through a super PAC to persuade Ben Carson to run for president.

Carson, a former Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon, who is unapologetic in his blunt talk, became a star to John Philip Sousa IV and other conservatives when he blasted the Affordable Care Act at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast with President Obama only several feet away.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

In an interview Tuesday, Sousa told the Loop his draft-Carson movement has yielded more than 7,100 volunteers and 200,000 signed petitions. Each week he mails thousands of them to Carson’s office. Sousa said the National Draft Ben Carson for President super PAC is airing its first radio ad next week during Sean Hannity’s show. By the third quarter, he said, there will be television ads.

As of the end of last year, the Carson-inspired super PAC, which formed in August, had raised a little more than $1 million but spent almost as much on fundraising efforts, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filing.

“He’s what our forefathers envisioned, the neighborhood statesman, the community statesman . . . not a professional politician,” Sousa said, adding that he thinks Carson can heal a country that hasn’t been this divided “since the Civil War.”

Liberals would argue that it’s Carson’s rhetoric that is divisive. And Sousa, a self-described activist, also worked to get Joe Arpaio, the controversial Arizona sheriff, reelected in 2012. On his personal Web site, Sousa writes, “I am tired of pressing one for English, I am tired of looking for the English instructions on boxes.”

Carson, who spoke last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said in an interview there that he has no desire to run for president but that if “that seemed to be what God was calling me to do, I would certainly do it. And I would never turn my back on my fellow citizens, if there was a hue and cry for such.”

So if Carson does jump into the 2016 race, will the Washington Post march play at his campaign rallies?

“Certainly if I get the opportunity to, I will,” Sousa said. “We’ll make sure at his inauguration they dance the two-step.”

Conservative estimates

Seems Loop fans may be mostly glass-half-empty folks, or are at least cynics.

None of the Loop Obamacare Contest entrants predicted the total enrollees in the Affordable Care Act would top the administration’s 7 million goal, much less hit the 7.1 million figure that Obama announced Tuesday.

And even after the White House last week trumpeted the total had topped 6 million — less than 24 hours before our Friday noon contest deadline (thanks a lot) — many Loop fans still predicted the final number wouldn’t be much higher than that. (Winning entries submitted after Obama’s Thursday announcement are denoted by an asterisk.)

At least the top five entrants were a more optimistic group. They all guessed that the total would pass 6.6 million, well before Obama said it had crossed the 6 million mark:

First-place winner Pratap S. Surana, a retired welding-company manager from Ellicott City, Md., who predicted the enrollment total would reach 6,850,700. Three others predicted 6.7 million: Tuna Aktulga, a retired librarian from Chevy Chase; retired federal employee Catherine McCullough of Chantilly; and Angie Partida of Alexandria, who works for a nonprofit.

The next-highest entry, at 6.612 million, came from Gerald Feuer, a retired federal employee from Silver Spring, followed by another retired fed, Leslie Lawson of the District, who predicted 6,543,210*. Health economist Allison Percy of Arlington guessed that 6,503,724 would enroll, and S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, predicted 6,427,374*. Michael Gould, a businessman from the District, predicted 6.39 million* would enroll, and Marci Wasserman, manager of national client operation for LexisNexis, predicted the final tally would hit 6.375 million.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all for entering.

And don’t forget to enter the Hillary Clinton contest to help her pick a title for her forthcoming memoir. E-mail your suggestions to intheloop@washpost.com, using the subject line “Hillarycontest.” The top five winners will receive one of those coveted In the Loop T-shirts.

Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner. You must also include a phone number — home, work or, preferably, cell — to be eligible. The deadline is near: We’ll need your entry by the end of the day Friday. Good luck!

New blood

The Senate confirmed several more Obama appointees this week, including Tom Malinowski to be the State Department’s assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor.

Malinowski, formerly a registered lobbyist at Human Rights Watch, had been favored for the post at the start of Obama’s term but had to wait the minimum two-year revolving-door period that Obama imposed for lobbyists on his first day in office. Malinowski was confirmed by voice vote Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed by voice vote, Chris Lu, White House Cabinet secretary during Obama’s first term, to be deputy secretary of labor. Lu apparently is only the second Asian American deputy secretary of a Cabinet department in history. (Elaine Chao, deputy secretary of transportation under Bush I, was the first.)

Lu’s wife, Kathryn Thomson, was confirmed on Thursday as general counsel of the Transportation Department — which may be the first couple ever confirmed within a week.

The Senate also confirmed a new ambassador to Colombia: career Foreign Service officer Kevin Whitaker, formerly deputy chief of mission in Venezuela and more recently deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. It was a close roll-call vote: 99 to 0.

And career federal prosecutor John Carlin, who had been chief of staff to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and more recently acting assistant attorney general for national security, was confirmed 99 to 1 to be assistant attorney general for national security.

The sole “no” vote was cast by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who was concerned about Carlin’s comments about the National Security Agency’s data-collecting program.

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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