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home : opinions : commentary February 6, 2016

2/20/2013 10:54:00 AM
Carson's remarks inappropriate for prayer breakfast

Cal Thomas
Tribune Media Services

Our politics have become so polarized and corrupted that a president of the United States cannot even attend an event devoted to drawing people closer to God and bridge partisan and cultural divides without being lectured about his policies.

On Feb. 7 at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Dr. Ben Carson, director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a 2008 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, broke with a 61-year-old tradition and publicly disagreed with some of the president's policies, such as "Obamacare," taxation and the national debt. Disclosure: I have attended this event since 1971 and host a dinner the night before for members of the media.

Several in the audience of 3,000 applauded Carson's remarks, which must have made the president feel even more uncomfortable.

I am no fan of the president's policies, but the National Prayer Breakfast is billed as one of the few nonpolitical events in a very political city.

Each year, the co-chairs, one Democrat and one Republican from either the House or Senate, put aside their political differences, as they do in weekly gatherings, to pray for the nation's leaders.

Carson, who spoke at the same event several years ago, has a compelling and inspirational personal story. He and his brother grew up in Detroit. His parents divorced when he was three. His mother kept an eye on her children and made them turn off the TV and read books. Carson said he did poorly in school and was mocked by classmates until he later caught the learning bug. He retold part of that story, but it was overwhelmed by his criticism of the president's policies.

Carson is a great example of what perseverance can accomplish and his success is a rebuke to the entitlement-envy-greed mentality. By lowering himself to mention policies with which he disagrees, he diluted the power of a superior message.

His remarks were inappropriate for the occasion. It would have been just as inappropriate had he praised the president's policies. The president had a right to expect a different message about another Kingdom.

I'm wondering if the president felt drawn closer to God, or bludgeoned by the Republican Party and the applauding conservatives in the audience (there were many liberals there, too, as well as people from what organizers said were more than 100 nations and all 50 states).

In 1996, radio personality Don Imus was the main speaker at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association annual banquet in Washington where he made sexually suggestive comments in front of President Clinton and the first lady. I asked White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers at the time if I was being too puritanical or did she also think Imus' remarks were inappropriate. She agreed they were. Whatever happened to propriety?

If Carson wanted to voice his opinion about the president's policies, he could have done so backstage. Even better, he might have asked for a private meeting with the man. As a fellow African American who faced personal challenges and overcame them, the president might have welcomed Dr. Carson to the White House. Instead, Carson ambushed him.

Carson should publicly apologize and stop going on TV doing "victory laps" and proclaiming that reaction to his speech was overwhelmingly positive. That's not the point.

While many might agree with his positions (and many others don't as shown by the November election results), voicing them at the National Prayer Breakfast in front of the president was the wrong venue.

Organizers for this event tell speakers ahead of time to steer clear of politics, but Carson apparently "went rogue" on them. I'm told organizers were astonished and disapproving of the critical parts of Carson's keynote address.

The breakfast is supposed to bring together people from different political viewpoints and cultures. It is supposed to bridge divides, not widen them.

If this and future presidents think their policies will be prey for political opponents at the prayer breakfast, they might decide not to come. That would be too bad for them and too bad for the country.

Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas at tmseditors@tribune.com.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: m m

I believe there should be more people like Carson, I think he is a hero for the American people. I also feel that God appreciated what he had to say. I believe our leaders, and our president are the core of this nations corruption. The American people need to stop watching the left wing media that is the polarization, and misrepresentation of the truth, we need to start thinking for ourselves, and our nation. Cal, you are a great example of the American that should have been born under a dictatorship, you let others think for you.

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Article comment by: Dick Marley

To Independent Wilson, I agree with you 100%. It is about time some one stood up to obama and told it like it is. He is a muslim and also a liar. He has not kept a single promise he made, in fact he has done the opposite from from his lies. Oh, he did keep one promise and that was to implement his privately funded army. That to me shows his arrogance and leads only to a dictatorship. Wake Up America.

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2013
Article comment by: Independent WILSON

Let me say up front as an Independent voter, that I do not care for our current president. However, Cal I disagree with your comments. Someone has to tell it like it really is to this narcissistic leader. Many believe that his destructive actions to America speak louder than his lying words. So far anyone who has stood up against Obama has been destroyed by the national press. A fawning press I might add that carries buckets of water (Whitehouse talking points) for the chosen one. Why Obama is at the prayer breakfast in the first place is an enigma for many. Is it to represent the Muslims of which he took an oath of faith when attending an Indonesian madrassa to observe for his life? There are Indonesian immigrants living here in Prescott and Prescott Valley who believe he is still of the Muslim faith. He lied about no new taxes for the middle class yet payroll just went up 2%. He lied about approving Keystone Pipeline to placate the destructive environmentalist. He lied about Obama care but I understand that there will be a new 3% tax on home sales. He lied about everyone receiving health insurance but what good is health insurance if there are no doctors to treat the sick. Everything Obama says is an outright lie believed by his cadre of low information voters AKA Democrat’s. So Cal, the prayer breakfast may have been traditionally wrong but Obama has declared war on the traditions of white faith based Americans.

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