Just as the Paris attacks have put national security front and center in the presidential race, Ben Carson finds himself in the awkward position of having to fight allegations from within his own camp that he’s not smart enough on foreign policy.
The former neurosurgeon defended himself late Tuesday after two of his aides told The New York Times that he’s struggling to grasp the intricacies of foreign policy.
During an appearance on PBS NewsHour, Carson admitted he’s on a “steep learning curve” when it comes to foreign policy but said he knows “a lot more than I knew a year [ago], and a year from now, I’ll know a lot more than I know now.”
“In medicine we have something called continuing medical education,” he added. “You have to get those credits in order to be recertified. I think that applies to every aspect of our lives, particularly in a rapidly changing world.”
Carson’s comments come after Duane R. Clarridge, described by The New York Times as “a top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security,” told the paper the GOP presidential hopeful needs weekly briefings on foreign policy in order to “make him smart.”
“Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,” Clarridge said.
But Carson denied that Clarridge was his adviser and told PBS the former C.I.A. agent “has no idea who else I’m sitting down and talking to.”
Doug Watts, a Carson campaign spokesman, also told 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 … Mr. Clarridge’s input to Dr. Carson is appreciated but he is clearly not one of Dr. Carson’s top advisors.”
During a Fox News Sunday interview this week, Carson couldn’t name even one ally he’d work with to fight ISIS, despite previously suggesting the creation of an international coalition against the terrorist group.
When asked about the awkward moment during his PBS NewsHour appearance, Carson replied, “I wasn’t interested in answering that question. Because I’ve learned that if I say, ‘I would call Egypt first’ or ‘I would call Israel first’ or ‘I would call Jordan first’ or whoever I said I would call first then the next thing would be, ‘Well, why would you not call this one first?’ I know how that works, and that’s just silly.”
“What I sort of object to is these soundbite answers that people can then pull apart and say, ‘See, he doesn’t know anything.’ “