CNHI News Service

Opinion

February 14, 2013

Prayer breakfast remarks ignite a firestorm

CENTERVILLE, Iowa —  

Editor's Note: If you're not a weekly subscriber to Marta Mossburg's column, you can publish this one if you notify her at marta@martamossburg.com

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If only we could all speak so freely as Dr. Ben Carson.

He is the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the best hospitals in the world. He grew up in poverty in Detroit, raised by a single mother who made her sons read two library books each week and write reports on them. She couldn’t read them, but they didn’t know.

Last week he addressed the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., a preeminent annual get together held since 1953. It is hosted by members of Congress and focused on finding common ground through faith. Every president attends and it is billed as one of the only nonpolitical events in the capital.

Dr. Carson’s speech ignited a firestorm from both left and right on cable news in the past week, with some on both sides calling for him to apologize to President Barack Obama for making overtly partisan remarks. Many on the right praised him for attacking the president, who sat a few feet away from him during his address, with Fox News inviting him on multiple programs.

CNN’s Candy Crowley asked a panel of guests if his remarks were “offensive.” And Cal Thomas, a conservative columnist who organizes a media dinner connected with the event wrote, “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.”

It’s true, Dr. Carson did assail the tax code, suggesting the tithe as a much simpler and fairer model for raising revenue than the current progressive tax structure with carve outs for myriad interest groups. And he also said healthcare would be cheaper and more effective if people took more responsibility for their care via health savings accounts “instead of sending it [money] to some bureaucracy.”

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