Ben Carson is warming to the idea of running for president. Since the famous brain surgeon retired last year from Johns Hopkins Hospital, he’s been speaking around the country to enthusiastic audiences. And they’ve affected his thinking about seeking national office.

“Over the years, there have been many attempts to get me to throw my hat in the political arena,” Carson writes in his new book, One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future. “I have been offered support from around the country and tremendous financial resources if I decide to run for national office. But I have not felt the call to run.”

Carson writes that he suspects many others interested in high office would be better candidates. But in his book he has a caveat: “If I felt called by God to officially enter the world of politics, I would certainly not hesitate to do so.”

Interviewed this week, Carson said he’s “starting to feel it. Because every place I go, it’s unbelievable.” One lady “really touched me the other night … She just kept clinging to my hand and said, ‘You have to run. You have to run.’ And so many people tell me that, and so I think I’m starting to hear something.”

Carson said he has no illusions about running. “It’s a daunting thing,” he told me. “I know how vehemently the left will come after you, try to destroy you, try to destroy your family. But at the same time I recognize that people like Nathan Hale – he said, 'My only regret is I have but one life to give to my country' … And if everybody runs for the hills because they’re afraid that somebody is going to attack them or their family, then [the left] will have won.”

In his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013 – with President Obama seated nearby – Carson said he wanted to focus on “the fact that we seem to be moving in the wrong direction as a country.” Afterward, sponsors of the breakfast were contacted to get Carson to apologize to Obama for his remarks. “I just told them I don’t think he’s offended, whether he was or not, and therefore I don’t see any reason I would do that.”

Carson had spoken to the same religious breakfast in 1997 with then President Clinton in attendance. “One of the things I talked about was integrity,” Carson said in the interview, “and I think one of the things [Clinton] must have been wondering, ‘does this guy know about my affair?’”

Clinton, he said, was “different” from Obama. “When he came up, he just said, ‘I just want to know who’s responsible for putting this guy on before me’ and burst out in laughter. And he continued on with a very good speech that he always gives.”

Here are excerpts from the interview with Carson:

On political correctness: "And if you believe that life begins at conception and that that is a wonderful progression from that fertilized egg to a human being who is active and interactive in only nine months time, then you’re anti-woman. And if you believe in traditional families and the strength of traditional marriage then you have to be a homophobe. And of course none of those things are true by any stretch of the imagination, but by stoking those fires, you shut people up and they’re afraid to say what they believe because they don’t want to be labeled with those labels. It’s intimidation, that’s all it is, intimidation. I’ve just decided that I’m not going to be intimidated, and of course they don’t like that very much. And they’ve tried to intimidate me into silence but it’s just not going to work, because the more they do it, the more vocal I’m going to be."

On his view of Martin Luther King Jr. as a political conservative: "I think he would’ve been appalled if he were here today, to see all these people just sitting around, waiting for housing subsidies and for food stamps and for free health care. What he wanted was equality of opportunity. The last thing that he would be in favor of is redistributing all the wealth and allowing people to just sit around and collect. And when you read a lot of what he says, he’s talking about the merits of hard work and personal responsibility. That’s what he wanted. But during a lot of his time people were not given a fair shake. They were not given fair opportunity. That’s all that he really wanted. He didn’t want special treatment."

On the myth of "brain overload": "The capacity of the human brain is almost incomprehensible. It’s more than our national debt. Because, and I think I use the example in the book, I don’t remember, but if you learn one new fact every second it would take you more than three million years to begin to challenge the capacity of your brain, that it can process more than two million bits of information in one second...It’s incredible. And your brain remembers everything you’ve ever seen and heard. We can put depth electrodes in and stimulate and somebody can quote back verbatim a book they read fifty years ago. It’s all there, it doesn’t go away."

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