The weirdest part of this is that it sounds like maybe Carson is being overbriefed.
“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.”…
This week, Mr. Carson’s advisers said that his source for claiming Chinese involvement in Syria was a telephone conversation he had had with a freelance American intelligence operative in Iraq…
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.”…
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.
Why the hell is Ben Carson talking to operatives on the ground in Iraq for the latest on what the Chinese might or might not be doing there? That level of detail is totally unnecessary to performing well on the trail. All he needs is a series of big-picture briefings on the major players and points of contentions in global hot zones, background on A-level American enemies like Russia and Iran, and economic overviews of various regions. Even that amount of knowledge is arguably superfluous given that no one who’s supporting Carson is doing so because of foreign policy. All he needs to do is make clear that foreign policy isn’t foreign to him, not get down in the weeds with Rubio in a debate about Cuba or the South China Sea or whatever. It sounds like they’re drowning him in so much minutiae that he maybe doesn’t know which facts to emphasize and which not to, which is how we ended up with that out-of-left-field reference to China in Syria in last week’s debate. Another one of his foreign policy advisors tells the Times that Carson has “an amazing intellect” and would make a fine commander-in-chief, although he too acknowledges gathering input for him from “a group of retired military officers, business leaders and ‘ambassador-level type guys.'” Again, why? Why does Carson need expert-level knowledge when, say, blogger-level knowledge is good enough for a public campaign?
Team Carson fired back by noting that Clarridge isn’t a top advisor to the campaign and, furthermore, that he’s very, very old, so, hey, discount what he says accordingly, I guess.
“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.”
Clarridge is 83 but he still runs his own private intel shop, and evidently he’s still thoughtful enough for the Carson campaign to accept foreign-policy input from him. Waving him off as senile to defuse a damaging story is something that Trump would get pounded for if he did it. As it is, Carson is bulletproof.
Or is he? We haven’t gotten to much poll news lately amid refugee-palooza but have a look at this new one from Reuters. When Republicans were asked this week, after the Paris attack, whom they trust most to handle terrorism, 33 percent named Trump versus 17 percent who named Rubio. Just nine percent named Carson, suggesting that if ISIS really does become a lingering issue on the trail, Carson’s in some trouble. Trump also leads Carson by nine overall in a new UMass national poll and by 19(!) in a new Morning Consult national poll, part of which was conducted after the Paris attack. This is the same guy whom Jeb Bush said yesterday would be starting to fade come December 15th. Exit question: Will Bush still be in the race by then?