November 17, 2015

The New York Times had a breathtaking story today about Ben Carson's inability to comprehend and learn foreign policy. it should give every voter who thinks they want Carson as the Republican nominee pause.

According to the Times, Carson gets briefed but it just doesn't seem to sink in.

“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.”

That's remarkable. Ben Carson is one of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, after all.

But wait, there's more:

Mr. Clarridge, a former C.I.A. agent who had connected Mr. Carson with the operative in Iraq, said on Monday that the information was wrong. The operative in Iraq had “overleaped” in suggesting Chinese troops are in Syria, Mr. Clarridge said, adding of the operative, “You know how it goes when people are desperate for some headline.”

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.

The "operative" Clarridge refers to there is a right-wing wingnut retired general named Robert Dees...

Dees declared that the U.S. had "been infiltrated" by Muslim extremists at a 2013 Christian men's conference. During his speech at Wildfire Weekend, the retired general recalled what he learned on a visit to an intelligence center in Virginia shortly after 9/11.

...who is of course an evangelical lunatic:

Dees accused the Obama administration of degrading the military's "moral readiness" with "social engineering" on gay and gender issues while speaking on a panel at the 2015 Values Voter Summit. In response to a follow-up question from about Obama's nomination of Eric Fanning, an openly gay man, to be the Army's secretary, Dees pivoted to talk about cultural "guerilla warfare within the military."

“People who would seek to strike religion from our land are working very aggressively out in the various parts of the military to strike down religious freedoms even if it’s against the existing regulation," he told They will press and push for whatever they can get away with.”

“We in the military know that [the troops] don’t want to be politically correct, they want to be God correct," he added.

That's the guy who gave Carson the "intel" that the Chinese were in Syria, a claim Clarridge debunked.

Armstrong Williams, Carson's top advisor, is now in spin mode to try and minimize the damage. As usual. Because that's all that man does. The first line of defense was for Williams to paint Clarridge as a senile old man.

"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," Carson spokesperson Doug Watts told the site. "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 advisers. 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."

Except there's a problem with that.

"It was Ben Carson's closest adviser, Armstrong Williams, who recommended that we talk to Mr. Clarridge and described Mr. Clarridge as a 'mentor' to Mr. Carson on foreign policy. Mr. Williams also gave us Mr. Clarridge's phone number. Mr. Clarridge picked up the phone and our reporter, Trip Gabriel, conducted a very straightforward interview with him," Ryan said. "Mr. Clarridge was the only adviser whose name was given to us by Armstrong Williams."

Williams can't make up his mind. After calling Clarridge senile, he then turned around and painted Carson as some kind of deep thinker who absorbs information from 13 or 14 different sources, even though they didn't supply anyone but Clarridge for the Times article.

"Listen, guys, the landscape of foreign policy in the country, the dynamics are changing every day," Williams said. "You take any of those presidential candidates, you tell me what foreign policy experience they have except some talking memo of some briefing they have. Dr. Carson is the kind of thinker, he wants to immerse himself in the details, like he did in learning his psychology course, like he did in learning medicine. Dr. Carson learns. He learns from 13 or 14 different people."

Bottom line here is an easy one. Armstrong Williams can spin any way he wants, but the fact is that Ben Carson has a big problem when it comes to understanding the Middle East, not the least of which is getting advice from Robert Dees, among the other 12 or 13 other mystery advisors.

GOP primary voters had better wise up, or else the general election will be an amazing landslide. For the Democrats.

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