We love people who tell it like it is, and who speak truth to power.
But there’s an art to knowing when to do it.
Benjamin Carson may be a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, but when it comes to the art of knowing when to tell it like it is, he’s no Picasso.
Conservatives in cyberspace have been applauding Dr. Carson for days now for his in-your-face keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday – in which he took a scalpel to the national debt, failures in education, the tax system and health care.
He knew what he was doing, too. He knew the president was a couple seats away. And he prefaced his remarks with a rant – 100 percent true – about political correctness and not being afraid to speak one’s mind.
“I have discovered ... in recent years,” he said, “that it’s very difficult to speak to a large group of people these days and not offend someone. ... The PC police are out in force at all times. ... And we’ve reached the point where people are afraid to actually talk about what they want to say because somebody might be offended. ... (A)nd it keeps people from saying what they really believe. ... (W)hat we need to do in this PC world is forget about
unanimity of speech and unanimity of thought, and we need to concentrate on being respectful to those people with whom we disagree. ...
“I’m very, very compassionate, and I’m not ever out to offend anyone. But PC is dangerous. Because, you see, this country – one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression, and (political correctness) muffles people. It puts a muzzle on them, and at the same time keeps people from discussing important issues while the fabric of this society is being changed.”
That’s something that has to be said, and something conservatives love to hear. They also have been cheering Dr. Carson’s approach to the tax system (it’s not supposed to punish the wealthy, he says; proportional taxation is fine, even biblically supportable) and health care (he favors creation of health savings accounts to encourage individual responsibility, as opposed to the nation’s current path of government-centric reforms).
But as much as we appreciate and agree with the doctor’s prescription, his bedside manner is another thing.
The prayer breakfast should never be about politics. Nor is it muzzling oneself to know when to speak up and when not to.
Even stalwart conservative columnist Cal Thomas writes that Dr. Carson owes President Obama an apology.
“His remarks were inappropriate for the occasion,” Thomas writes. “It would have been just as inappropriate had he praised the president’s policies.”
There was nothing wrong with what he said, just when and where.
It’s also regrettable because Carson not only has powerful ideas for American civic renewal, but a most compelling personal story to back it up. He used his mother’s ironclad orders to read incessantly – including the Bible – to rise from a fatherless household in a dangerous, despairing urban environment to become one of the most respected surgeons in the world.
We hope folks can wring
from his remarks the
medicine that could help turn this country around. Freedom. Responsibility. Fair taxation. A strong educational system that doesn’t try to fool itself and others about the real state of things. Spirituality. And a realization that, like an eagle, this country can’t fly without a left wing and a right wing.
We just wish he’d picked another place and time to say it.