WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is in the Middle East this weekend to meet with Syrian refugees.
The retired neurosurgeon has been facing questions about his command of foreign policy. Carson planned to tour one of Jordan's major refugee camps Friday and Saturday, campaign manager Barry Bennett said. Bennett declined to release more details about the two-day mission because of security concerns.
Like other Republicans, Carson has sometimes taken a harsh tone when discussing the issue. Last week, he likened blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees to handling a rabid dog.
"We have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly," he said. "Who are the people who want to come in here and hurt us and want to destroy us?"
Debate over Syrians fleeing their war-torn country has erupted following a series of terrorist attacks in Paris that raised security concerns across the West. Carson and his GOP rivals have criticized President Barack Obama's plan to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees this budget year, expressing concern that terrorists may sneak into the country among them. Many Republicans have linked the Paris attackers to Syrian refugees, although European authorities have yet to confirm such connections.
Carson has repeatedly struggled to discuss international affairs as they become a greater focus in the 2016 presidential contest. Those close to him concede his foreign policy fluency isn't yet where it needs to be. They hope missions like this will help change that.
"I'd say he's 75 percent of the way there," Armstrong Williams, Carson's longtime business manager and closest confidant, said last week of the candidate's grasp of foreign policy. "The world is a complex place, and he wants to get it right."
Carson is scheduled to return to the United States late Saturday, Bennett said.