The Right Opinion

Let us Prey

By Cal Thomas · Feb. 12, 2013

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.

Last Thursday 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.



View all comments


Anton D Rehling in Olympia, WA said:

For crying out loud Bevis, what do you think Obama and the Dimwits have been doing for years? It is time for you to crawl out from under your rock and smell the coffee. They are destroying this country and the would be emperor is a joke as POTUS. Dr. Carson chose his time to counter attack and I applaud him for his bravery.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 2:02 AM

Nathaniel Davidson in GA said:

What a disappointing piece of wimpishness from Mr Thomas. Dr Carson's speech is just what the country needed. We are not getting that from the Republicans in the main. Carson was indeed trying to halt the politics of personal destruction so beloved by Obamov and his envy-mongering class warriors.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 2:11 AM

Patriot LEO in The People's Republik of MD said:

The title of this piece on the Washington Examiner website is "Cal Thomas: Ben Carson owes Obama an apology" (

I'm sorry, but what a pile of crap. In fact, it seems like Cal missed the entire section of Dr. Carson's speech pertaining to the disease of political correctness, as Cal seems to be suffering from a severe bout of it, in this column.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 5:02 AM

Patriot LEO in The People's Republik of MD said:

Dr. Carson was, rightly, pointing out policy areas wherein prayer was the most necessary to see positive change, and any 'discomfort' among the audience would have come from those responsible for either enacting or failing to end such policies as the good doctor described.

What better way to give the audience wise counsel upon which to direct their supplications in prayer than by providing concrete and specific examples of areas of need?

I think that it is Mr. Thomas who owes Dr. Carson an apology for questioning both the motives and conviction behind a brilliant speech.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 5:07 AM

rab in jo,mo said:

So Mr. Thomas thinks that this was the wrong venue for such a speech. Hmm, since when has the Obama regime given a rat's behind about propriety? It is about time that someone stands up and declares that the emperor has no clothes. I took the speech as more of a moral lesson than a political one, which would make it quite appropriate for the occasion.
The time for PC nuanced subtlety is long gone, Cal. The future of the country is at stake and now is not the time to pussyfoot around. We will resist marxism and not go quietly into the night. I do not want my child living as a servant of the government because I was unwilling to fight.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:46 AM

Dick Belmont in Fergus Falls, MN said:

We're all entitled to our own opinions, Mr. Thomas, but most of us are sick and tired of PC speech. Wasn't it Obama who publically humiliated Paul Ryan at a gathering that Obama asked Ryan to attend and also was disrespectful of McCain at a meeting.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Glenn in The Land of 10,000 Liberals replied:

Don't forget his criticism of the Supreme Court, in their presence, during the State of the Union address, when they couldn't respond. Talk about inappropriate. Obama’s chickens are coming home to roost.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 2:25 PM

wjm in Colorado said:

Get off your High Horse Cal, and get a clue, what better forum to disparage the evil that is now embraced by Democrats. I pray they wake to their immoral adherence to Marx and Pagan Idolitry of Obamao worship, and the country can rid itself of the traitors. I pray for their demise, before they prey us into oblivion.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Bob in Hattiesburg, MS said:

I'm sorry, Cal. I have to disagree with you on this one. The issues which Dr. Carson addressed are not just political, but moral and spiritual as well. Indeed, all politics are attempts at the practical application of a religious world view, whether one's religion is Christianity or atheistic statism. As such, it is eminently appropriate to address them with Herod sitting there. I hope he was made uncomfortable. After all, isn't the Left fond of "speaking truth to power"? John the Baptist did it at great cost.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:15 AM


Well Mr. Thomas - when would there be a good time to get the American people re-energized and back on a path to greatness? You truly missed on this one. Dr. Carson's speech was spot-on and very appropriate!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:27 AM

richard ryan in Lamar,Missouri said:

Cal, I am sorely disappointed with this article. Since when should true patriots be afraid, or prevented from standing up to tyrants in whatever venue presents itself? Shame on you Mr. Thomas. With writing such as this, you are no friend of liberty.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 12:36 PM

PH in DE said:

" I'm wondering if the president felt drawn closer to God."

By all indications, Obama thinks he IS god, so how could anyone's speech make him feel closer or more remote from God? Dr. Carson spoke on moral matters at a prayer luncheon, which is extremely appropriate. The only apology owed is Obama to America, because Obama has caused or embraces so many moral failures in this country. This country is in desperate need of prayer to turn around the practices and ideologies that are being pushed to destroy it. What better occasion than the National Prayer Luncheon to speak of and pray about these moral problems and blights on our society?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 12:40 PM

JAC in Texas replied:

Odickhead can't get any closer to God than every morning when he looks in the mirror and thinks he sees Him.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 4:47 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

Another so-called Consevative stomping on another Conservative for telling the truth and using Scripture to illustrate his beliefs. If Thomas were in Congress he would be a full-blown RINO. Apparently he doesn't care that the Demorats have been doing this same thing for years. The only apology needed is for Odumbo to resign and apologize to the American people for screwing up the country.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 1:06 PM

midfielder in St. Charles, MO said:

Cal, I'm quite disappointed in you. This lying piece of crap POTUS needs to be villified at every opportunity and Dr.Carson is a brilliant man who by the way is entitled to his opinion according to the first amendment at any time or place he chooses to excersize it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 1:27 PM

Scott in Kentucky said:

I could not disagree with you more, Mr. Thomas. Dr. Carson was "spot-on" in his speech. He should run for President in 2016. He'd sure have my vote!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 1:29 PM

Rick in Columbia, MO said:

Hey Cal. I'll bet Jesus smiled through the whole thing and didn't care at all that your feathers were ruffled. Dr. Carson eloquently spoke for the sleeping dog that is mainstream America. I pray that Obozo keeps kicking the dog until he wakes up and reasserts his protection of our homeland from those that seek to destroy it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 1:33 PM