Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Prayer Breakfast: Obama’s “Humility” Prayer v. Carson’s Humble Appeal

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“The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

                     — Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Worship"


The more he talked of humility, the faster we counted our liberties. In his short address last Thursday, February 7, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, President Barack Obama repeatedly stressed the virtue of humility, and especially the need for political leaders to be humble. In his brief remarks, the president used the word “humility” four times and the words “humble,” “humbled,” or “humbling” five times. In the closing paragraph of his speech, President Obama told his audience: 

And so this morning, let us summon the common resolve that comes from our faith. Let us pray to God that we may be worthy of the many blessings He has bestowed upon our nation. Let us retain that humility not just during this hour but for every hour. And let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble.

“And let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble.” Good suggestion, Mr. President, which implies that the occupant of the White House Oval Office must lead the way of humility. That worthy utterance might be more convincing if the speaker were not daily issuing arrogant edicts that usurp powers which the Constitution he recently vowed to protect and uphold do not give to the president.

Is the president acting humbly and in accord with the limited powers of the president under the Constitution when he attempts to bypass Congress and rule by executive order? When he peremptorily, illegally issues “kill lists” of people targeted for assassination — including American citizens? When he attempts to destroy the protections of habeas corpus and institute indefinite detention through the NDAA? When he extends the Bush administration’s abuses and seeks to further destroy protections against illegal search and seizure? When he takes over a whole sector of the auto industry? When he attempts to nationalize the entire health and medical systems? When he launches wars in Libya, Mali, and elsewhere without the congressional declaration of war mandated by the Constitution? When he decrees, by a fraudulent declaration of endangered species protection, that thousands of square miles will be made virtually off limits to human activity? When he issues an executive order allowing the seizure of Americans’ bank accounts?

The list of outrageous arrogance goes on and on.

Dr. Benjamin Carson’s Speech Inspires, Delights, Shocks, Outrages

The keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast was Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D., the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University’s Children’s Center for over a quarter of a century and the founder of the Carson Scholars Fund scholarship program for disadvantaged and at-risk kids. He is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award.

Dr. Carson started his address (see below) with several quotes from the Bible’s Book of Proverbs and then quoted the famous call to national humility from II Chronicles 7:14: 

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 

Like President Obama, Dr. Carson is charismatic, highly educated, and a gifted speaker. And, like Barack Obama, he is black. There the similarities appear to end. While Obama has been a “community organizer,” a lawyer, and professional political activist his entire adult life, Carson has been a physician, a surgeon, an educator, and a philanthropist. Born into dire poverty in Detroit, Dr. Carson was raised by a single mother who was illiterate, but who was also determined that her sons would develop their God-given intellectual gifts. With wit, humor, and passion, Carson interwove his inspiring personal story with an analysis of the serious moral, social, economic, and political problems that beset our nation. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama both heartily applauded many of Dr. Carson’s earlier remarks, but as his address progressed, it appeared that the president was becoming less and less comfortable.

Without mentioning ObamaCare by name, Dr. Carson took aim at the president’s effort to destroy the doctor-patient relationship by injecting vastly more federal bureaucracy into the healthcare equation. He also blasted the U.S. income tax system as unfair and “so complex there is no one that can possibly comply with every jot and tittle.” Moreover, he suggested that we already have a model tax proposal from “the fairest individual in the universe — God — and he’s given us a system. It’s called the tithe.” 

Dr. Carson also denounced “political correctness” and the censorship and self-censorship that results when the “p.c. police” demand “unanimity of thought and unanimity of speech.”

P.C. Police Go on the Attack

It did not take long for the political correctness police to take after Dr. Carson. CNN’s Candy Crowley was one of the first out of the gate. On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Crowley played a short segment of Carson’s speech and then elicited comments from her panel of “experts” by saying: 

Whoa! So, this was really interesting number one for the venue, number two for the person doing this.… What did you think of that?

Crowley’s “Whoa!” exclamation says more about her own bias than it does about anything Dr. Carson said. But this is the same Candy Crowley, of course, who infamously took President Obama’s side while “moderating” the Obama-Romney debate last year, actually commandeering the debate and arguing alleged factual points with Mitt Romney.

Former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison told Crowley it was “a great message” and that it reminded her of the prayer breakfast at which Mother Teresa had given the keynote address and had launched into an attack on the evils of abortion, with President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary sitting uncomfortably on the dais. 

This, obviously was not the comment Crowley was looking for. Prodding her guests, she asked: “Do you find anything offensive” with Dr. Carson’s remarks? Not surprisingly, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) rose to the occasion and told Crowley that Dr. Carson’s comments were not “appropriate,” and then in an incoherent twist of logic and semantics attempted to claim that it was Dr. Carson who was engaging in political correctness. Schakowsky also claimed that Dr. Carson lacked “empathy” with “where the American people are right now” (whatever that means). She said

Well, I think that there’s a political correctness that he was trying to use to appeal to a conservative audience. I think it's really, not really an appropriate place to make this kind of political speech and to invoke God as his support for that kind of point of view. But I think most of all the kind of message that he was giving shows a real empathy gap of where the American people are right now, and I think it's reflective of where many of the Republicans and Tea Parties are right now that we need to have an economy that works for everyone. 

Regular FOX TV guest commentator Bob Beckel, an unabashed Obama supporter, called Dr. Carson’s speech “disgraceful.” 

Michael P. Mazenko, a public-school English teacher and Denver Post columnist, called Dr. Carson’s speech “disappointingly clichéd and divisive.”

Unwritten Rule: Black People Not Allowed to Criticize Obama

Former congressman Allen West, a black conservative who was recently subjected to the same media treatment that Dr. Carson is beginning to feel, appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox News program on February 12 to give his take on the current hubbub over the doctor’s speech. He told his host: 

Well, I don't think it should cause any controversy whatsoever. I thought that we lived in an America where you could have freedom of speech. And I believe that the doctor gave his assessment of some of the policies that involve his profession in the health care profession, and also talking about the culture of and the relationship of government to the individual.

Now, I think what has everyone upset is that he violated the unwritten rule of being an African-American male and he criticized the policies of President Obama, which I can somewhat understand, having been on the other side of a lot of attacks, as well.

But if you go back to September of 2012, there was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Emanuel Cleaver, who gave an incredible statement saying that if anyone else were in the White House other than President Obama, that they would be marching on the White House, and that President Obama knows that he is given a deference that would not be given to a white president. 

West criticized the political correctness that restricts journalists and even critics to asking “softball” questions of President Obama. He said: 

And we were talking about the incredible 14 percent unemployment rate in the black community. And I think that we cannot continue to go on believing that all we can do is ask the president what his favorite color is and continue to have these softball interviews. We have to start talking about the policies that are failing this country, and I think Dr. Carson — hat tip to him for having that platform, being able to challenge those policies. 

Carson: “Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies”

Dr. Carson doesn’t appear to be ready to back down any time soon. He appeared on Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto on February 11 to respond to his critics.

“What we need to do is we need to be able to discuss intelligent ways of solving the multitude of problems that threatens to destroy our nation,” he said. “And there are a group of people who would like to silence everybody and have everybody go along to get along, but that’s not going to be very helpful for us in the long run.” Carson added, “Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies."

To judge from the amazing outpouring of support for Dr. Carson all over the Internet — including lots of calls of “Dr. Carson for President” — his recent example of genuine “speaking truth to power” is striking a very responsive chord with a large portion of the American public.

Photo of Barack Obama: AP Images


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