Ben Carson Looking For His Foreign Policy Footing

Ben Carson appears to be confronting a foreign policy learning curve.

November 18, 2015, 5:49 PM

— -- With the Paris terrorist attacks dominating the news cycle -- and increasingly becoming the talk of the presidential campaign trail -- Ben Carson appears to be confronting a foreign policy learning curve.

"A year from now, I will know a lot more than I know now,” about foreign policy and national security, Carson acknowledged in an interview Tuesday on the PBS "NewsHour."

His comments came on the same day that some his own advisers called into question the former neurosurgeon's facility with international affairs issues.

"There is much for him to learn. He is not perfect,” Carson adviser Armstrong Williams told Bloomberg News on Tuesday. “We'll never be perfect. But he continues to surround himself with people and engage people that can enhance his foreign policy.”

And in The New York Times, Duane R. Clarridge, who has advised Carson, also offered a candid critique.

“Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,” Clarridge told the Times, adding that Carson needs weekly conference calls on foreign policy so “we can make him smart.”

While the Carson campaign acknowledged that Clarridge has had contact with the candidate, a spokeperson denied that he is a top adviser.

“He is coming to the end of a long career of serving our country,” the campaign said in a statement. “Mr. Clarridge's input to Dr. Carson is appreciated but he is clearly not one of Dr. Carson's top advisers.”

The campaign also pushed back on the assertion in the story that Clarridge was closely involved with Carson’s foreign policy briefings.

"He has no idea who Ben talks to everyday," campaign manager Barry Bennett told ABC News. "He's just confused."

But as recently as last week, Carson, himself, suggested that it was the Obama administration that was confused on foreign policy, claiming that his intelligence on Syria was better than the president's.

"I have several sources that I’ve gotten material from. I am surprised my sources are better than theirs,” Carson said last week. “[The White House] will have an opportunity to see my material.”

When asked last week about Carson's claims, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was at a loss for words. “Maybe it violates my job description as a spokesperson to be speechless,” Earnest laughed. “But I think in this case, I am.”

Carson subsequently said those comments were “tongue in cheek” and that he hopes his advisers are not, in fact, better.

Carson has told ABC News that he has daily foreign policy briefings and talks regularly to his top foreign policy adviser General Robert Dees.

Even so, in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Carson had trouble naming one world leader he would call to assemble a coalition to counter ISIS, despite being pressed.

"If we get out there and we really lead and it appears that we’re making progress, then all of the Arab states and even the non-Arab states who I think are beginning to recognize that the jihad movement is global,” Carson said. “It is not just local in the Middle East, but if we fight it there, they will have to pool their resources in that area, and then we won’t have to necessarily fight them here. That’s what I’m saying.”

Williams said Carson ignored these questions because he does not like answering hypotheticals.

“Dr. Carson is very dismissive of the question,” Williams told Bloomberg. “It was a hypothetical, and Dr. Carson does not like answering hypotheticals. He intentionally did not answer the question.”