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Carson in Cincy: Declare war on Islamic State

Posted at 7:40 AM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 07:40:26-05

CINCINNATI -- The United States should officially declare war on the so-called Islamic State, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Wednesday night during an impromptu meeting with reporters in downtown Cincinnati.

Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon who's traded front-runner status in the GOP race with businessman Donald Trump, made a few stops in the Tri-State, including a private ballroom event at Cincinnati Music Hall. His swing through the area was kept relatively quiet -- Hamilton County's top Republican leaders didn't know he'd be here until contacted by the media.

At Music Hall, Carson spoke at a private event organized by members of the Young Presidents Association, a global network of young chief executives with about 22,000 members in more than 125 countries.

Across town, Brian Peter, with Mariemont Barber Shop, said Carson was supposed to shoot a commercial there Wednesday because the Carson campaign was looking for an "All-American" barbershop. Carson didn't have time, though, because he was running late, Peter said. The candidate still went inside and shook hands with the barbers and other employees.

"We all got to go up and meet him and shake hands," said Peter, a barber. "Good guy, really polite. We only got to talk to him for a couple of seconds."

Peter said the shop's employees hope he will come by again to film a commercial. Also, Peter said Carson was filming a Bill O'Reilly segment at National Exemplar, a nearby restaurant.

Wednesday night's remarks outside the Cincinnatian Hotel aren't the first time Carson has called for the U.S. to declare war on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, a position that's been shared by fellow candidates Jeb Bush and Rand Paul.

"They want you to say, 'Here it is, right here, one thing,'" Carson said. "It's not one thing, it's, first of all, declaring war -- officially -- and getting all of our allies involved. The whole NATO alliance needs to be involved. All of our friends in the Middle East need to be involved."

Carson also said the U.S. should go so far as destroying Middle East oil fields if that's what's needed to cut off the Islamic State's funding, and that the United States should seal its borders completely.

When questioned about his foreign policy experience, Carson said he believes his background in the medical field has helped prepare him for crisis.

"I can guarantee you I've had more 2 or 3 in the morning calls than anybody else running and had to make very quick decisions that are life-and-death decisions," Carson said.

Watch what Carson said about a variety of topics -- from the Islamic State to poverty to foreign policy -- in the video below:

When asked about how the nation might combat poverty -- particularly relevant in Cincinnati, where the childhood poverty rate is double the national average -- Carson took aim at what he views as "excessive regulations" on business.

"Every one of those regulations costs in terms of goods and services -- it drives the prices of everything up," Carson said. "It doesn't hurt rich people when they go into the store and a bar of soap costs 10 cents more. It hurts a poor person, they see it, they notice that right away. It hurts the middle class, because when they come up to that cash register and they have a whole cart full of things that cost 5 or 10 cents more, it has an impact on their ability to live a quality life."

BELOW THE LINE: Examining Childhood Poverty in the Tri-State

Polling out Wednesday shows Carson has the lead in Colorado, a critical swing state, where he not only leads his Republican rivals but holds a sizable lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Still, Wednesday wasn't all good news for the Carson campaign: One of his closest advisers acknowledged the candidate is struggling with the complexities of foreign policy, though he's making progress thanks to intense briefings.

"I'd say he's 75 percent of the way there," said Armstrong Williams, Carson's longtime business manager. "The world is a complex place, and he wants to get it right."

Williams estimates Carson has been spending "40 percent of his time" in foreign policy briefings in recent weeks.

The campaign also had a serious gaffe when it put out a map of the United States with pretty much all of New England misplaced and part of Virginia lumped in with Maryland.

The map was intended to show how many states have objected to the federal government granting refugee status to Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland, over fears of terrorists slipping into the United States -- a concern Carson shares.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Carson urged congressional Republicans to "extinguish" Syrian resettlement programs, saying the United States "cannot, should not and must not accept any Syrian refugees."

"I would just say we need to be reasonable and we need to be logical," Carson said in Cincinnati. "So obviously, we don't want to do anything that is going to increase the danger to our citizens. At the same time, we want to be compassionate."

Regarding Syrians already in the U.S., he said earlier this week: "I would watch them very carefully."

As to the map mistake, geography doesn't seem to be a strong suit for Americans: The Washington Post points to a 2006 survey commissioned by National Geographic that found half of young Americans couldn't place New York on a map of the United States. (Still, it's not exactly clear how or why the graphic designer charged with making Carson's map would rearrange states instead of doing a simple fill-in-the-blank job.)