Ben Carson’s 3 Non-Answers Cost Him 8 Points

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Ben Carson’s 3 Non-Answers Cost Him 8 Points on Monday, November 23, 2015.

In the primary campaign for the 2012 presidential election, Rick Perry’s infamous “Ooops!” in response to a question caused a drop in his public opinion poll numbers and ultimately led to his withdrawal from the race.

History may be repeating for Ben Carson.

After running neck-and-neck with Donald Trump in the public opinion polls, NBC News/SurveyMonkey released a new online poll yesterday that shows “Support for Ben Carson, who was tied with Trump in last month’s online poll, has fallen off by 8 points.”

That steep decline can be traced to a series of events that began just one week ago.

Dr. Carson appeared on Fox News Sunday to express his response to the horrific ISIS attacks in Paris. Host Chris Wallace asked him: “you have said that you would, as president try to create an international coalition militarily to go after ISIS.  How would you put that together?  Who would you call first?

Dr. Carson responded:

Well, what I was just explaining is, you know, how we use the resources that we have.  You know, that includes some of our special ops people working in conjunction with an effective fighting force there.  Those are the kinds of things that will create enthusiasm, as we begin to take back the land, take back the areas and damage their image throughout the world.

Mr. Wallace asked the same question again:  “But who would you call first, specifically, to put together an international military coalition?”

Dr. Carson’s response:

My point being that if we get out there and we really lead and it appears that we’re making progress, then all of the Arab states and even the non-Arab states who I think are beginning to recognize that the jihad movement is global.  It is not just local in the Middle East, but if we fight it there, they will have to pool their resources in that area, and then we won’t have to necessarily fight them here.  That’s what I’m saying.  

Mr. Wallace, whose father was the famous television interrogator, Mike Wallace, pressed again:  “But can you tell us who you would call first, sir?  On the international scene.”

Dr. Carson’s response:

I would call for all of the Arab states to be involved in this.  I would call for all of our traditional allies to be involved in this.  You know, I don’t want to leave anybody out.  

At that point, Mr. Wallace shifted to the related security subject of “boots on the ground,” but the damage was done. Dr. Carson’s three non-answers became blood in the water for the media.

The New York Times sought out the Carson campaign’s advisor on terrorism and national security, Duane R. Clarridge, who told them, “Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.”

The Carson campaign reacted defensively, claiming that the newspaper “took ‘advantage of an elderly gentleman,’” but the descent continued.

Last Friday, Dr. Carson spoke at an event to Christian conservatives in Des Moines, Iowa, his usually supportive base. But Politico reported that “Iowans are now consistently voicing doubt about Carson’s credentials to be commander-in-chief. Indeed, they said the terrorist attacks have reordered the candidates in their mind, lifting Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio and, for many, making Carson an afterthought.”

Yesterday Dr. Carson returned to Sunday morning television on ABC’sThis Week where George Stephanopoulos picked up the media hunt that Chris Wallace had started:

And one of your close friends and business manager Armstrong Williams was actually quoted saying Dr. Carson is still on a learning curve. There is much for him to learn.

You know, with national security and terrorism such a top concern now of voters, can you explain why they should choose a commander-in-chief who is still on a learning curve?

Dr. Carson was prepared this time:

Well, I hope everybody is on a learning curve. You know in medicine we have something called CME, continuing medical education.

It recognizes the fact that things are always in the process of changing. And if you stay stagnant and you say, well, I’m up on it and now I’ll go relax, you’re not going to be very competent. And the same thing applies with being commander-in-chief.

Despite the spin, in essence, the candidate for commander-in-chief admitted that he has much to learn about national security.

And it all began with his three non-answers to a question.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Ben Carson’s 3 Non-Answers Cost Him 8 Points on Monday, November 23, 2015.