Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins whose speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last month made him a conservative celebrity, announced on Saturday that he was retiring from his medical practice to consider other "things that could be done," teasing the crowd about the prospect of a 2016 presidential bid.
"I want to quit while I'm at the top of my game," the 61 year-old Carson said, "and there are so many more things that could be done." The crowd greeted the announcement with thunderous applause.
Earlier in his speech, Carson asked the audience to imagine a president who wants to destroy the country, elevating himself as the hypothetical executive.
"Let's say somebody were there, and they wanted to destroy this nation," Carson said. "Let's say you magically put me, you know, into the White House."
"First of all, I would create division among the people," he said. "And then, I would encourage a culture of ridicule for basic morality ... and then I would undermine the financial stability of the country and drive it so far into debt that there was absolutely no chance that it could recover. And I would weaken the military and destroy the morale of the military."
He then suggested that the hypothetical president destroying the country was, in fact, President Obama: "It appears coincidentally that those are the very things that are happening right now."
During his speech at the Prayer Breakfast last month, Carson delivered what many people saw as a criticism of the president while Mr. Obama sat right next to him, calling for a flat tax and criticizing the government for "trying to interfere with everyone's life."
After that speech, Carson said, "I got so much mail," and not all of it was pretty. Some respondents, he said, asked, "How dare you insult my president? You are an n-word."
He asked, "When did we reach the point that you had to have a certain philosophy because of the color of your skin?"