As part of a “fact finding” endeavor to learn more about the plight of Syrian refugees, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson departed the United States for Jordan on Thanksgiving Day. On Friday, Carson’s campaign confirmed that the GOP hopeful will visit a clinic and a hospital at a United Nations refugee camp in the Middle Eastern nation. CNN noted that the retired neurosurgeon will take gifts for the children at the camp, including soccer balls and stuffed toys.
According to campaign staff, Ben Carson is traveling to Jordan with a small group. An aide to Carson indicated that the trip is not intended as a “press event,” but the candidate did speak briefly with the New York Times before leaving.
“I find when you have firsthand knowledge of things as opposed to secondhand, it makes a much stronger impression,” Carson said.
Ben Carson’s trip to Jordan comes less than two weeks after the presidential candidate compared Syrian refugees to “rabid dogs” during a campaign event in Alabama. Like many of his fellow Republican presidential candidates, Carson has openly scrutinized President Obama’s plans to allow Syrians into the United States in the midst of a growing humanitarian crisis. In his comments, Carson attempted to couch his criticism with a context that interspersed sympathy with concerns regarding security. But his relatively inartful choice of verbiage raised eyebrows, nevertheless.
“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog… And you’re probably going to put your children out of the way. That doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs… But you’re going to put your intellect into motion and you’re thinking, ‘How do I protect my children at the same time?… I’m going to call the humane society and hopefully they can come and take this dog away and create a safe environment once again.'”
Carson’s firsthand approach towards achieving a better understanding of the Syrian refugee crisis is a significant development in his ongoing effort to gain a better understanding of American foreign policy and the larger geopolitical landscape. The candidate has faced increasing criticism for apparent gaps in his knowledge and prospective strategies regarding important world events, including the global war on terrorism.
Even key staff within Ben Carson’s presidential campaign have expressed doubts regarding his ability to process and retain information about international affairs. Duane R. Clarridge, a former CIA agent working with the Carson camp on the development of foreign policy positions, articulated his frustrations with Ben Carson’s purported intellectual shortcomings in an interview with the New York Times earlier this month. Clarridge lamented that “nobody has been able to sit down with [Ben Carson] and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East.” According to The Daily Beast, Clarridge also told the New York Times that Carson requires weekly foreign policy briefings so that staff “can make him smart.” After his comments went public, Carson representatives downplayed Duane Clarridge’s role in the presidential campaign.
Ben Carson is accompanied by Secret Service agents on his trip to Jordan, as that government agency recently began providing protection for the presidential candidate. Carson is expected to return to the United States on Sunday.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]