CARSON: Well, I think they would have been extremely concerned if we had declared -- and we were serious about it -- that we were going to become petroleum independent, because it would have had a major impact on their finances. And I think that probably would have trumped any loyalty that they had to -- to people like Osama bin Laden. STEPHANOPOULOS: But they didn't have any loyalty to Osama bin Laden. The Saudis kicked him out. He was their enemy. CARSON: Uh, well, you may not think that they had any loyalty to him, but I believe otherwise.
There's been quite a bit of drama in recent days between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush on matters of national security, and their debate is an important one when it comes to defining the Republican Party's future. But while their feud continues to unfold, it's Ben Carson who's blazing a trail in a completely different direction.
At the most recent debate for the GOP presidential candidates, Carson stood out as the only major candidate -- in either party -- to express skepticism of the Bush/Cheney administration's invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. As Carson argued at the event, instead of launching a war, George W. Bush could have declared that the United States would "become petroleum independent" in the next 5 to 10 years. "The moderate Arab states would have been so concerned about that," he said at the debate, "they would have turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks."
ABC's George Stephanopoulos followed up on this point yesterday, asking Carson how in the world this would have worked, since moderate governments in the Middle East already considered the al Qaeda leader an enemy.
These kinds of exchanges keep coming up. Carson makes a bizarre claim that's at odds with the facts; someone gently tries to remind of him of what reality looks like; and the retired right-wing neurosurgeon effectively responds, "I prefer my own made-up reality, thank you very much."
And then somehow, it actually got a little worse.
As Carson sees it, in 2001, Middle Eastern governments had a sense of where bin Laden was hiding in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they would have gone in and gotten him, but only if they feared U.S. energy independence.
Stephanopoulos patiently tried to get the GOP candidate to explain in more detail, eventually saying, "I simply don't understand how you think this would have worked."
Carson responded, "Well, here's the point -- here -- here's my point. My point is, we have -- we had other ways that we could have done things. I personally don't believe that invading Iraq was an existential threat to us. I don't think Saddam Hussein was an existential threat to us."
Got that? Carson was asked about his belief that changes in U.S. energy policy would have led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. In explaining that belief, Carson started talking about Saddam Hussein.
"I wasn't asking about invading Iraq," Stephanopoulos reminded the candidate. "I was asking about invading Afghanistan, which had been harboring Osama bin Laden."
To which Carson responded, "Well, I was primarily talking about Iraq."
I see. So when Carson was talking about Middle Eastern governments turning over Osama bin Laden, Carson was secretly talking about Saddam Hussein and the invasion of Iraq. We just didn't notice that his words had some kind of indecipherable and contradictory double meaning
Even for Carson, this level of gibberish is alarming. Watching the interview, I imagine quite a few people found the idea of this man actually serving in a Commander-in-Chief capacity quite terrifying.