Chart­ing a course be­tween prin­ci­ple and prag­ma­tism

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Ben S. Carson

Iwas asked re­cently how I could pos­si­bly en­dorse the U.S. Se­nate can­di­dacy of Mon­ica We­hby, who is run­ning as a Repub­li­can from Ore­gon. She is prochoice, which in the opin­ion of many makes her un­ac­cept­able as a con­ser­va­tive. I called her to query her about her stance on this is­sue. She stated that per­son­ally, she is very pro-life, but she feels the govern­ment has no busi­ness in­ter­fer­ing with the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the mother, the baby, the doc­tor and God. I feel dif­fer­ently, be­cause if abo­li­tion­ists had taken a sim­i­lar hands-off ap­proach, I might not have been free to write this col­umn. As some­one who has spent a life­time try­ing to save the lives of chil­dren, even with in­trauter­ine surgery, it is prob­a­bly not dif­fi­cult to imag­ine why I am ex­tremely ori­ented to­ward ef­forts to pre­serve hu­man life, es­pe­cially in­no­cent hu­man life that has yet to ex­pe­ri­ence the ex­trauter­ine world.

Given this pro-life propen­sity, one might ask, how could I en­dorse some­one who is pro-choice? The an­swer is this: I’m not an ide­o­logue who de­ter­mines a per­son’s wor­thi­ness with a lit­mus test. I have known Dr. We­hby as a friend and col­league for many years, and she is ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent and knows how to make de­ci­sions based on ev­i­dence ver­sus ide­ol­ogy. Also, in a state like Ore­gon, which is left-lean­ing, she would not be a vi­able can­di­date if she main­tained a pro-life stance.

If con­ser­va­tives are go­ing to win in 2014 and 2016 and pre­serve the en­vi­ron­ment of free­dom to which we have grown ac­cus­tomed, it will be nec­es­sary to learn how to pri­or­i­tize is­sues. I am not say­ing that so­cial is­sues are not im­por­tant, but if the ex­ec­u­tive branch re­mains in the hands of those with “sec­u­lar pro­gres­sive” ideas in 2016, and two or three more Supreme Court jus­tices with sim­i­lar lean­ings are ap­pointed, con­ser­va­tive so­cial ideas will be­come anath­ema to the pre­vail­ing pow­ers, who will use ev­ery tool avail­able to them to si­lence such op­po­si­tion.

The ex­treme in­tol­er­ance of the left for opin­ions that vary from their own has been am­ply demon­strated in re­cent years on univer­sity cam­puses, in the main­stream me­dia and in the pub­lic square. Boy­cotting those with whom they dis­agree is in­suf­fi­cient for them, as demon­strated by their at­tempts to put their po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries out of busi­ness or to as­sas­si­nate their char­ac­ter.

Some­times it is not pos­si­ble to go from a po­si­tion of ex­treme weak­ness to one of great power in one fell swoop. We must re­al­ize that get­ting people into of­fice who agree with us 90 per­cent of the time is far su­pe­rior to end­ing up with some­one who op­poses you at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity at the be­hest of their party lead­ers. With pa­tience and good lead­er­ship, the 90 per­centers can be moved in the right di­rec­tion and will be great al­lies in redi­rect­ing our coun­try to­ward com­mon-sense so­lu­tions for our mul­ti­tude of prob­lems.

The soul of Amer­ica is at stake, and the fu­ture of our chil­dren and their chil­dren is threat­ened by un­sus­tain­able grow­ing debt. Those who just lis­ten to pro­pa­ganda and refuse to read his­tory or fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with ba­sic fi­nan­cial knowl­edge are eas­ily fooled by those claim­ing that we are safe be­cause our debt is ris­ing slower. Those who go off the fi­nan­cial cliff die whether they fall one mile or 10 miles. The point is this: If the coun­try is de­stroyed, many other is­sues be­come ir­rel­e­vant. We need to sta­bi­lize the coun­try first and then ad­dress the other se­ri­ous prob­lems.

Al­though there now ex­ists sev­eral vari­a­tions on the best way to per­form car­diopul­monary re­sus­ci­ta­tion (CPR), in the past there was much con­fu­sion. In the early 1960s, a mnemonic de­vice called the ABCs of CPR was pop­u­lar­ized and elim­i­nated much of the con­fu­sion. The proper or­der of the pro­ce­dure was easy to re­call by re­mem­ber­ing what each let­ter stood for. “A” was for “air­way,” which can be quickly op­ti­mized. “B” was for “breath­ing” to re­mind the res­cuer of the im­por­tance of oxy­gena­tion, and “C” was for “circulation,” which could be re-es­tab­lished by chest com­pres­sion. For ex­am­ple, if chest com­pres­sion is started in some­one with an ob­structed air­way, it might prove less ef­fec­tive. By pri­or­i­tiz­ing the steps, many lives were saved.

If the ship is about to suf­fer mas­sive de­struc­tion by sail­ing over Ni­a­gara Falls, why de­vote en­ergy scrap­ing the bar­na­cles off the bot­tom? There will be plenty of time for that once the ship is saved. Wor­ry­ing about the bar­na­cles be­fore re­vers­ing course de­tracts from crit­i­cal ac­tion. Enough said.

This ra­tio­nale will anger some who feel that their im­por­tant is­sue, be it ho­mo­sex­ual mar­riage, abor­tion, il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion or Sec­ond Amend­ment rights should never be any­where ex­cept front and cen­ter. I sym­pa­thize with those sen­ti­ments, but as a prag­ma­tist, I re­al­ize that if con­ser­va­tives con­tinue to be frag­mented over is­sues on which there will never be unan­i­mous agree­ment, they will never get the chance to ad­dress these is­sues down the road. Prin­ci­ples are very im­por­tant, but so are wis­dom and savvy when build­ing con­sen­sus with people with dif­fer­ent kinds of prin­ci­ples. Ben S. Carson is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of neu­ro­surgery at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity and au­thor of the new book “One Na­tion” (Sen­tinel).

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