Ben Carson has now topped the Republican primary polls long enough that, perhaps in combination with the recent attack in Paris, his advisers now appear genuinely terrified that he might be elected president and are doing everything in their power to stop it. Or else they hate him. Whatever the reason, in a series of on-the-record interviews with New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel, Carson advisers have supplied several brutal assessments of his foreign-policy acumen, or complete lack thereof.
Former CIA director Michael Hayden said on “Morning Joe,” “I had one lengthy phone call with Ben Carson two months ago, and his instincts are all right, but this is a database in which he’s very unfamiliar.” Okay, so Carson came into this campaign lacking basic factual knowledge of world affairs.
Still, he has good instincts, right? No! Armstrong Williams, Carson’s business manager, tells Gabriel that Carson gave an ignorant interview to Fox News because he choked in the clutch: “He’s been briefed on it so many times,” he said. “I guess he just froze.”
Okay, so he lacks background knowledge, and he freezes up in the face of questioning. But at least he’s able to process information in calm, private settings, right? No! Duane R. Clarridge, a top Carson adviser on the Middle East, tells Gabriel, “Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.”
Let’s sum up what we have learned. The candidate’s advisers are saying on the record he doesn’t know anything, has trouble learning anything, and cannot seem to recall even what little information he has managed to assimilate. I don’t see how a Carson presidency could go wrong.
Update: Carson’s campaign officially responds to Business Insider:
“Mr. Clarridge has incomplete knowledge of the daily, not weekly briefings, that Dr. Carson receives on important national security matters from former military and State Department officials,” Doug Watts, a Carson campaign spokesman, told Business Insider in an email.
“He is coming to the end of a long career of serving our country. Mr. Clarridge’s input to Dr. Carson is appreciated but he is clearly not one of Dr. Carson’s top advisors. For the New York Times to take advantage of an elderly gentleman and use him as their foil in this story is an affront to good journalistic practices.”
So the official Carson campaign explanation is that Ben Carson was receiving tutelage from an adviser so old and senile that it was unethical for a reporter even to contact him on the record? If, at the next Republican debate, Carson comes out for sending military aid to French Indochina, we’ll have to admit the campaign was right about this. Still, this is not a confidence-building explanation.