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Ben Carson knows nothing about the Middle East, according to a Ben Carson adviser

Mark Wilson/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Since Ben Carson rose to near the top of Republican primary polls, some commentators have argued that he doesn't really seem to have a firm grasp on the details of many public policy issues. For instance, his incorrect statement that "the Chinese" are in Syria during last week's GOP debate was puzzling to many.

Now one of Carson's own advisers has said he also thinks Carson has no clue what he's talking about.

In a remarkably damning New York Times report, Carson foreign policy adviser Duane Clarridge complains to reporter Trip Gabriel that his candidate ... well, I'll let him speak for himself:

CLARRIDGE: "Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East."


Gabriel writes that Clarridge also said he wanted Carson to attend weekly briefings so "we can make him smart." And Clarridge isn't just some random hanger-on — Armstrong Williams, who's running Carson's campaign, told Gabriel that Clarridge was "a mentor for Dr. Carson."

It's so unusual for a candidate's adviser to trash him publicly that one wonders whether Clarridge — an octogenarian indicted (and pardoned) for charges relating to the Iran-Contra scandal decades ago — was aware he was on the record. Alternatively, Clarridge could be deliberately trying to make Carson look bad because he feels he hasn't been consulted enough.

Regardless, the harsh judgment Carson's supposed "mentor" has offered about him raises serious questions about his readiness to be commander in chief.

Gabriel also found out just how Carson came to be misinformed about Chinese military involvement in Syria — so head over to the New York Times to read his full, great story.

Update: In response to Gabriel's story, the Carson campaign released a statement in which they denied Clarridge was one of Carson's "top" advisers and said he had "incomplete knowledge" of Carson's daily briefings on national security issues. "For the New York Times to take advantage of an elderly gentleman," the statement continues, "is an affront to good journalistic practices." (New York Times editor Carolyn Ryan responded by pointing out that it was the Carson campaign who had suggested that the Times interview Clarridge, per Politico's Hadas Gold.)