In a perplexing interview, Dr. Ben Carson on Monday acknowledged that his dropping poll numbers were due to his perceived foreign policy inexperience, but noted that few running have any such experience – except, perhaps, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“The fact of the matter is if you look at all the people who are running, how many of them have a lot of had foreign policy experience?" Carson said on ABC’s "Good Morning America," adding, "The answer is no, not, not many. You know, maybe Hillary."
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, does indeed have the the single most high-profile resume on foreign policy, though Republicans aren't usually prone to complimenting it. Still, Carson's Republican rivals also have some experience of their own: Sen. Marco Rubio is on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, while Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Lindsey Graham are on the Senate Armed Services, as was Sen. Rick Santorum while in the Senate for two terms. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was on the House Armed Services Committee for 18 years, and Carly Fiorina often touts her relationship with Gen. Michael Hayden when he ran the National Security Agency and later the Central Intelligence Agency, where she was chair of the External Advisory Board.
Carson's campaign, in turn, touts his work internationally as a surgeon and his wide travels.
Carson has stumbled from day one on foreign policy, mixing up which nations are in NATO to whether or not China is militarily involved in Syria. In the wake of last month's devastating terrorist attacks in Paris, the race zeroed in on foreign policy and Carson stumbled once again: The Republican candidate couldn’t answer a question on invoking a NATO article, said, “I’m not sure,” after a long pause. Asked three times on another program, he failed to name a single ally or world leader he’d draw into a coalition to fight ISIS.
In a few short weeks, Carson went from rivaling Trump in both national polls and in the key early voting state of Iowa to diving dramatically on national security cross tabs.
Carson spent the last few weeks defending his foreign policy chops. He launched a surprise trip to Jordan to visit a Syrian refugee camp to boost his credentials, but faltered days later when he delivered a stilted speech on Jewish history to a group of top Jewish donors — during which he repeatedly mispronounced "Hamas," a Palestinian group considered by the U.S. to be a terrorist organization.
"Well, basically, people feel that I don’t have foreign policy experience and I understand why that would be the case because they listen to the narrative that only politicians can fix this,” Carson said Monday.
Since the start of his campaign, the candidate has sought to portray himself as a CEO-type, someone who would draw together experts to make decisions, just as the retired pediatric neurosurgeon did when leading massive surgical teams to separate cranially-conjoined twins — the very procedure that made him famous decades ago.
"But here’s the question, who has experience solving problems? Who has many 2 a.m. calls where they have to make life and death decisions?" Carson said Monday on ABC. "That’s the kind of commander in chief I would be looking for."