Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon weighing a Republican bid for the White House, got a little confused about foreign policy and the origins of Islam during an interview on the conservative Hugh Hewitt radio show Wednesday evening.
Asked whether NATO should be willing to go to war if Russian President Vladimir Putin takes aggressive actions against the Baltic states, Carson said, "We need to convince them to get involved in NATO and strengthen NATO."
Before cutting to a commercial break, Hewitt pointed out that the Baltic states are already in NATO. Later in the interview, Carson admitted he was confused about what Hewitt was referring to. The Baltic states are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
"Well, when you were saying Baltic state, I thought you were continuing our conversation about the former components of the Soviet Union," Carson said. "Obviously, there’s only three Baltic states."
"Right, and they’re all part of NATO," Hewitt said, prompting Carson to reply, "right."
Hewitt said he had been worried Carson would get tripped up on foreign policy questions during a presidential campaign, but Carson said he was learning and there was still a lot for him to study.
"I‘ve read a lot in the last six months, no question about that," Carson said. "There’s a lot of material to learn. There’s no question about that." Carson said he wants to focus on the big picture in American foreign policy and leave the minutiae for experts.
"I have to go back to something that I feel is a fundamental problem, and that is we spend too much time trying to get into these little details that are easily within the purview of the experts that you have available to you," Carson said. "And I think where we get lost is not being able to define what our real mission is, and not being able to strategize in terms of how do we defeat our enemies, how do we support our allies?"
Hewitt also pressed Carson on his understanding of Islamic history. After Carson traced disputes in Islam back to the biblical story of Jacob and Esau, Hewitt asked how that could be the case, when Mohammed lived in 632 A.D. and the biblical story took place in B.C.
"I’m just saying that the conflict has been ongoing for thousands of years," Carson said. "It is not anything new, is what I’m saying."
Hewitt has made clear in interviews with other potential GOP candidates that they better come to his show with knowledge of nitty-gritty policy details.
Carson has said he will decide on a presidential run by May.
According to HuffPost Pollster, which tracks publicly available opinion polls, Carson ranks near the top of the pack of potential GOP presidential contenders.