America the Beautiful
Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great
by Ben Carson
(Click for Amazon book review)
OnTheIssues.org BOOK REVIEW:
This book isn't Ben Carson's first book, but it's his first purely political book. His previous books addressed his life story and his medical practice (as a leading pediatric neurosurgeon); this book outlines his political stances. Overall, it feels like it's written by a political novice -- which of course Ben Carson is, never having run for office despite his current status as Tea Party darling for the presidential nomination in 2016.
Political books by political novices do have their charms -- they do not contain the hedged "nuanced" stances made by dissembling politicians. Carson sounds genuine here, telling his compelling life story (raised in poverty but with a high regard for education). Unlike the previous tellings of his life story, this one addresses his politics: how he came to be a conservative despite being constantly surrounded by Democrats in the African American community and liberal colleges.
Every chapter has Carson exploring historical perspectives -- from ancient Israel (p. 29 on hierarchical leadership) to ancient Rome (p. 131 on military over-stretch) -- it often reads like a "study guide" to introduce historical context to a new politician. I'm not criticizing that -- I do the same thing as a means to learn a new topic -- and Carson's choices of historical examples illustrates what he considers important. What he considers important usually reflects on Constitutional originalism, citing the Founding Fathers frequently, or on faith in American government and past leaders (for example pp. 49-50, where he explores the non-atheism of both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin). If you like historical perspective, this book has plenty -- but it often feels like a stretch to apply ancient lessons to modern politics.
Carson also repeats himself repeatedly -- using the same phrases in different chapters to illustrate the same points in different contexts. That criticism usually means the chapters were written as stand-alone pieces -- but that does not seem to be the case here -- this book was written as a complete book. We had the same criticism of Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope", and we come to the same conclusion: Carson expects his readers to read only one chapter and then move on, so he'd better make each chapter self-contained and include all of his catchphrases. When reading the book cover-to-cover, that stand-alone-chapter writing method becomes annoying for the reader. For example:
- Mother "made us submit to her written book reports, which she could not read" (p. 54 in chapter on education);
- vs. "We were told to do book reports for Mom every week… She couldn't read the reports we wrote" (p. 64 on capitalism and hard work)
- The "Democratic Party will claim that the Republicans want to cut programs that benefit children and the elderly… the Republicans will claim that the Democrats are addicted to spending," (p. 109 in chapter on morality);
- vs. "the Democrats accuse Republicans of draconian budget cuts that would take the food out of the mouths of babies and shelter from the elderly... The Republicans accuse the Democrats of having no understanding of budgetary constraints," (p. 121 on learning from past mistakes).
- …and numerous others.
For those readers interested in what Carson stands for in a possible presidential run, a first-time exploration of political issues raises more questions than it answers. Carson explicitly feeds into that problem: for example, on pp. 190-1, he raises questions about capital punishment and abortion:
Well, ok, that outlines the situation -- but how does Carson answer that question? He does not, in this book, address his own view on capital punishment, leaving the question posed but unanswered. He partly addresses abortion (pp. 99-100, where as a medical practitioner he saved a hydrocephalic baby who would have been aborted), but the reader still feels that many questions are left too open.
"If one believes that killing is wrong in all instances, be it executing a mass murderer or aborting an unborn fetus, it will be very difficult to negotiate a compromise on the issues of capital punishment or abortion. If, on the other hand, an individual is opposed to capital punishment simply because of the great expense involved in each case, and only opposed to late-term abortion, that person would be quite capable of yielding to compromise."
Overall, this is an excellent first political book and lays the groundwork for a possible Carson run for the presidency, or at least lays the groundwork for continuing his role as a Tea Party spokesperson. "Lays the groundwork" is the critical phrase: If Carson actually wants to mount a campaign for the presidency, he'll need to answer the questions he poses, and move on from historical perspective to actual proposals for modern issues.
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, OnTheIssues.org, April 2013
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
ACLU: Ultimately, a woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy.
Ben Carson: Persuaded mother of hydrocephalic baby to cancel abortion.
Budget & Economy|
Ben Carson: 1990s deregulation paved way for 2008 economic meltdown.
Ben Carson: Cut every agency spending by 10%, with no exceptions.
Democratic Party: OpEd: Republicans want to cut benefits to kids.
Republican Party: OpEd: Democrats are addicted to spending.
Tea Party: Financial responsibility to cut $61B from budget.
Ben Carson: 1960s: experienced racism in inner-city Boston and Detroit.
Ben Carson: Reparations for WWII Japanese ok, but not for slavery.
Ben Carson: Not all black candidates share Obama's left-wing politics.
Ben Carson: Redefining marriage is slippery slope with disastrous ending.
Ben Carson: Legal binding relationship for gays to enjoy property rights.
Ben Carson: Free speech is wonderful, but hate speech causes actual harm.
Ben Carson: Tithing teaches about not hoarding as capitalist greed.
Ben Carson: Highest corporate tax rate causes highest national debt.
Ben Carson: Motorcyclists not wearing helmets consume medical resources.
Ben Carson: Imagine the mayhem if all police protection were removed.
Ben Carson: Excessive litigation would end with "loser pays" arrangement.
Ben Carson: Stop politically-correct prejudice against blacks vs. whites.
Ben Carson: Reducing blood alcohol limit to .02 reduces drunk driving.
Ben Carson: Religion kept me away from 1960s sex and drugs.
Ben Carson: As child, mother required written book reports.
Ben Carson: Southern slaveowners knew education would empower slaves.
Ben Carson: Maintaining American pinnacle requires math, not athletics.
Ben Carson: Carson Scholars Fund: for humanitarian & superior academics.
Ben Carson: THINK BIG: Talent, Honesty, Insight, Nice, Knowledge.God.
Ben Carson: Carson Reading Rooms: 4,800 scholarships totaling $2 million.
Energy & Oil|
Ben Carson: Petroleum independence would deprive terrorists of funding.
Ben Carson: Intelligently tap our own resources offshore & in Alaska.
Ben Carson: Protecting environment logical for capitalists & socialists.
Ben Carson: Native Americans casinos are justified, but not beneficial.
Ben Carson: Rome's decline began with immoral lifestyle; like in America.
Ben Carson: Freedom is why people come from Cuba to US, not vice versa.
Ben Carson: US poverty pales compared to billions in India & Africa.
Ben Carson: Human nature makes giving up power difficult.
Ben Carson: Too many lawyers in government; get more doctors in.
Ben Carson: Lengthen House term to 6-10 years, with no re-election.
Ben Carson: Bloated government keeps itself busy to justify existence.
Ben Carson: Two-tiered system ok as long as care is adequate.
Ben Carson: Saudi Arabian solution: stiff penalties for medical fraud.
Ben Carson: Regulate insurance companies as non-profit services.
Ben Carson: Government responsibility for catastrophic coverage.
Ben Carson: Let paralyzed quadriplegics choose to die if they wish it.
Howard Dean: Trial Lawyer Association donors have blocked tort reform.
Ben Carson: Roman Empire fell because military was stretched too thin.
Ben Carson: Ethical world leadership stops bullies with brutal force.
Ben Carson: Confront radical violent elements of all religions.
Ben Carson: Overwhelming majority want the southern border secured.
Ben Carson: Deportation is moral low road; create guest worker program.
Ben Carson: College job: supervised highway cleanup crews.
Ben Carson: Unions bad when they focus on power & not future generations.
Principles & Values|
Barack Obama: OpEd: Many blacks voted for Obama only because he's black.
Ben Carson: DIRECT: Deny, Ignore, Resist, Exempt, Conform, Transform.
Ben Carson: Democracy was never intended as a spectator sport.
Ben Carson: All religions provide beliefs that make us reasonable.
Ben Carson: National Day of Prayer is a suggestion, not a requirement.
Ben Carson: Naively committed plagiarism in college psychology course.
Ben Carson: God granted me a miracle in passing freshman chemistry.
Ben Carson: Raised a Democrat, but became a registered Independent.
Ben Carson: Wise voters look at their representatives' voting records.
Ben Carson: Tea Partiers & Independents reject spoon-fed biased media.
Ben Carson: For eagle to fly straight, balance left wing & right wing.
Colin Powell: OpEd: Many presidents made initial contribution in military.
Harry S Truman: 1952: Officially created National Day of Prayer.
Sandra Day O`Connor: Ok to mention God in banners in public schools.
Scott Brown: OpEd: Scorned by both Dems & GOP because of principled votes.
Tea Party: OpEd: Tea Party won't become well-organized political party.
Ben Carson: Nothing in Constitution supports redistributing wealth.
Ben Carson: Not unpatriotic for rich to take advantage of loopholes.
Ben Carson: Use computer teaching and virtual classrooms.
Ben Carson: Respect privacy; don't use info from post-9-11 monitoring.
War & Peace|
Ben Carson: No right to assume that our way was right for 1960s Vietnam.
Ben Carson: Morality of war in Iraq was highly debatable.
Ben Carson: Better response than post-9-11 invasions: oil independence.
Ben Carson: Tyranny follows if we disarm nukes & madmen get them.
Welfare & Poverty|
Ben Carson: Those who don't want to work? They are on their own.
Ben Carson: Government entitlements compete with private-sector charity.
Ben Carson: Eradicate poverty by providing education and requiring work.
The above quotations are from America the Beautiful
Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great
by Ben Carson.
Books about the Tea Party Movement:
- America the Beautiful, by Dr. Ben Carson, 2012
- The Second American Revolution, by the Tea Party Patriots, 2012
- The Remaking of Republican Conservatism, by Theda Skocpol & Vanessa Williamson, 2012
- An American Son, by Marco Rubio, 2012
- The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, 2012
- The Tea Party: A Brief History, by Ronald Formisano, 2012
- Michele Bachmann: Why She Will Win, by Ron Paul Jones, 2011
- Core of Conviction, by Rep. Michele Bachmann, 2011
- Take the Risk, by Dr. Ben Carson, 2007
- The FairTax Book, by Rep. John Linder, 2006
- Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto, by Rep. Dick Armey
- Troublemaker, by Christine O`Donnell
- The Tea Party Goes to Washington, by Sen. Rand Paul
- The Freedom Agenda, by Sen. Mike Lee
- Now Or Never, by Sen. Jim DeMint
Page last edited: May 09, 2013