GOP's Carson says he has capacity to learn foreign policy

WILTON, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson likens his learning foreign policy to his ability to absorb changing complex medical practices. But Carson is standing by his support for monitoring groups he describes as "anti-American" and keeping Syrian refugees out of the United States.

Carson has been pushed into the spotlight as he's among the leaders in national, and early voting state Republican polls. And yet, some have criticized the retired celebrated neurosurgeon as having insufficient grasp of foreign policy.


Referring to critics, Carson said Sunday at a meeting of about 400 eastern Iowa GOP activists: "They say 'Carson doesn't know anything about foreign affairs.'"

Carson pointed to the continuing medical education all physicians are required to obtain as a sign of his capacity to learn, and said he would seek help from advisers.


"It doesn't matter, because what is really needed is a clear understanding of what the problems are and the ability to work with very talented people that we have," he said. "The world is changing very quickly. We have to be willing to continually update our knowledge and adjust to the things that are going on in our country."

While indirectly acknowledging the criticism, Carson did not appear to back away from comments he made Saturday, suggesting the government monitor some mosques in light of the Paris attacks this month by the Islamic State group.

Carson said Saturday that he would support monitoring "a mosque or any church or any organization or any school or any press corps where there was a lot radicalization and things that were anti-American."

Asked Sunday if people might take his use of "anti-American" to mean he supported restricting liberties, Carson said, "I think anybody with normal intellect knows exactly what I'm saying."

Carson has also faced criticism for suggesting that the U.S. should refuse to admit Syrian refugees, to ensure that no Islamic extremists who would do harm slip into the country.

Last week, Carson likened blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. to handling a "rabid dog."

"Unless we get serious about that, we're going to see things happening here," he said.

Carson spoke to an audience in an eastern Iowa church, and later at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.


Mary Rourke of Davenport says she is weighing voting for Carson in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, the first contest of the 2016 nominating sequence. But she thinks he needs to bone up on policy, and tone down what she called "anti-Muslim rhetoric."

"He's very smart, and obviously has a wealth of knowledge," the retired postal worker said, carrying books to the Davenport event she hoped Carson would sign. "But he needs to demonstrate that he has the policy credentials and the temperament to be president."

Associated Press