The PJ Tatler

Ben Carson: Too Nice, Naive for Politics?

As the pundits place their bets in the 2016 presidential pony poll, Ben Carson comes out with a new book on May 20th that attempts to find the kind of common ground that makes us (or could make us) truly “One Nation.” It’s filled with common sense, gracious efforts to find compromise, along with scriptural guidance that, if followed, would doubtless make us a better nation.

But the pundits will, of course, dismiss Carson’s book, as they have dismissed him.

Since his February 2013 speech, with President Obama at the dais, before the National Prayer Breakfast, Carson’s media-generated persona has been shaped more by his alleged political incorrectness than by his brilliance as a neurosurgeon, or by the story of his hard-knocks rise from poverty, or by his plain-spoken approach to solving our nation’s woes.

In One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future, he recounts how the White House reportedly called the prayer-breakfast organizers demanding an apology for some of his remarks. He declined to apologize, noting that he didn’t think the president was offended, and didn’t think he said anything inappropriate.

As I read a review copy of One Nation, I tried to do so without regard to presidential politics. After all, he starts by saying he doesn’t feel called to run for office, but he acknowledges that could change. I also know that behind the scenes, his friends and supporters are working to generate the kind of groundswell that looks like a calling. And frankly, outside of his friends and family, the only people who read this book will be those wondering whether he is “The One.”

I found myself reacting to Carson by saying, “Sure, wouldn’t it be great if politics really worked like this,” as he envisions sincere people on both sides working to find a principled compromise. But I know enough about politics from my experience as a local elected official to know that sincere, principled people, not controlled by larger forces, can be hard to find. Carson acknowledges that the political realm draws charlatans and scoundrels, but we should merely vote them out. Again, I thought, “If only…”

I wondered if Ben Carson is just too nice and too naive for politics.

His contention that taxation should be proportional to wealth — essentially a fixed percentage — is eminently reasonable. But the stranglehold of special interests with their pet loopholes is not only tough to break, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how a congressional majority willing to break it would ever get elected.

I don’t know if Ben Carson would make a good president, but he has a great story, brilliant mind, common sense values, and a strong work ethic. I think, at least, he would make an honest president.

We could do worse.

We have.