Thank God for Hugh Hewitt.
Despite an abiding respect for Dr. Ben Carson’s vision, intellect, and accomplishments, many conservatives began to wonder whether he was prepared to mount a presidential bid when his artless comments about the nature of homosexuality inspired a news cycle dedicated to the complexities of sexual relationships in prison. Needless to say, this was intellectual energy that could have been better spent.
If conservatives had doubts about Carson’s readiness to run for the presidency, they were confirmed on Wednesday when the “Hewitt Primary” claimed its first scalp.
In an extended interview in which Hewitt grilled Carson on a variety of issues relating to foreign policy, Carson’s responses failed to impress.
Hewitt asked if NATO should be willing to go to war if Russian leader Vladimir Putin attempts to do in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania) what he’s already done in Ukraine.
“I think they would be willing to go to war if they knew that they were backed up by us,” Carson said. “We need to convince them to get involved in NATO and strengthen NATO.”
“Well, the Baltics, they are in NATO,” Hewitt responded. [In fact, they’ve been member states since 2004.]
After a commercial break, Carson explained that he was confused. “Well, when you were saying Baltic state, I thought you were continuing our conversation about the former components of the Soviet Union,” he said.
Those inclined toward generosity of spirit and forgiveness should not dismiss Carson’s ill-preparedness. Carson was simply unaware that the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have been NATO members for over a decade, and has no policy to address Russia’s ongoing attempts to destabilize those countries.
This is not an abstract matter. In 2007, Estonia was the target of a massive, virtually unprecedented cyber-attack linked to Moscow. The attack was prompted by a row sparked when Estonian officials sought to remove a Soviet-era statue from the Estonian capital of Tallinn. As recently as September, Russian forces reportedly abducted an Estonian soldier from a border checkpoint at gunpoint and charged him with espionage. The border guard was scheduled to be released in January, but he remains captive in Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo Prison. Russia claimed that the border guard had infiltrated Russian territory when he was captured, but his detention was preceded by the use of smoke grenades and communications jamming technology by Russian forces.
These provocations will undoubtedly continue, and a miscalculation on Moscow’s part could easily lead to an escalating international crisis that forces NATO and Russia to the brink of war.
Later in the interview, Hewitt pivoted from a discussion on the flashpoint in Europe to the flashpoint in the Middle East, where American forces are again combatting an Islamist insurgency. Carson insisted that he had been educating himself on the phenomenon of militant Islam, which he contended has been a feature of Middle Eastern politics since biblical times. When Hewitt observed that the Prophet Mohamed, the founder of the Islamic faith, was not even born until the 7th Century A.D., Carson again insisted that the roots of Islam could be traced to the Book of Genesis.
Some would argue that most presidential candidates enter the race without fully formed and well-reasoned opinions on foreign policy. That’s true, and there is time for Carson to make up his knowledge deficit. But there are several candidates with a fuller resumes who are simply more experienced at the business of politics than Carson. These able candidates would not clutter the news cycle with avoidable gaffes that compel conservative to come to their defense. Dr. Ben Carson is simply not ready to run for the presidency, and his interview with Hewitt confirmed that.