Ben Carson’s Own Advisers Admit He Doesn’t Have a Clue About Foreign Policy

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Will it matter during a time of international crisis that the GOP’s co-frontrunner is just stone making it up as he goes along?

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It is a rare thing indeed for campaign advisers to plunge the knife into candidacies that have been at or near the top of the polls for months. Rarer still for said advisers to go on the record, using their names, in The New York Times. Yet that is where we are tonight:

“Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,” Duane R. Clarridge, a top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security, said in an interview. He also said Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so “we can make him smart.” […]

Mr. Clarridge, described by Mr. Carson’s top adviser, Armstrong Williams, as “a mentor for Dr. Carson,” is a colorful, even legendary figure in intelligence circles, someone who could have stepped out of a Hollywood thriller. He was a longtime C.I.A. officer, serving undercover in India, Turkey, Italy and other countries. During the Reagan administration, he helped found the agency’s Counterterrorism Center and ran the C.I.A.’s Latin American division. […]

Indicted on charges of lying to Congress in the Iran­-contra scandal (he was later pardoned), Mr. Clarridge today runs a private network of intelligence sources, including, he said, experts on Iran, China and the Middle East, who have all briefed Mr. Carson in phone calls or Skype sessions. Mr. Clarridge, who contacted Mr. Carson nearly two years ago to offer his services without pay, has helped the candidate prepare for debates. But the briefings do not always seem to sink in, Mr. Clarridge acknowledged. After Mr. Carson struggled on “Fox News Sunday” to say whom he would call first to form a coalition against the Islamic State, Mr. Clarridge called Mr. Williams, the candidate’s top adviser, in frustration. “We need to have a conference call once a week where his guys roll out the subjects they think will be out there, and we can make him smart,” Mr. Clarridge said he told Mr. Williams.

Mr. Williams, one of Mr. Carson’s closest friends, who does not have an official role in the campaign, also lamented the Fox News interview. “He’s been briefed on it so many times,” he said. “I guess he just froze.”

Whole thing here. The Carson campaign responded by essentially calling Clarridge an old man shaking his fist at clouds:

“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.”

Armstrong Williams, Carson’s longtime business manager who frequently acts as a campaign surrogate, said Clarridge is a “good guy” who wasn’t aware of the extent of Carson’s prepping on foreign policy.

“Mr. Clarridge is a good man, he’s been a friend of Dr. Carson’s, he’s well-meaning,” Williams told Business Insider. “He’s just frustrated because he was unaware that Dr. Carson was talking to so many other advisers.”

That, or maybe he’s embarrassed by utterly incoherent debate answers like this?

I can testify from experience that when you point out to Carson’s supporters that he is clearly, even dangerously, unknowledgeable about basic international affairs, and fails to make up for this gap by anything like usable instincts, the answer comes quick: Yeah, but what about Obama/Clinton/Kerry? Proving that whataboutism is as alive and well all over the political spectrum this season as righteous anti-elitism and guttural know-nothingism.

 

Reprinted with permission from Reason.com