Former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson thinks he knows why Donald Trump floundered so badly on the question of abortion this week: It's because Trump wasn't warned that the question was coming.
Speaking on CNN Wednesday night, Carson tried to defend Trump after the GOP front-runner reversed himself on the question of whether women who seek illegal abortions should be punished.
Earlier in the day, Trump had said he would ban abortion if he were president. When MSNBC's Chris Matthews then asked Trump if pregnant women who sought abortions would be penalized in his administration, Trump said yes, those women deserved "some form of punishment."
Trump's answer angered people on both sides of the abortion debate, and the candidate quickly backtracked in a series of written statements.
Carson, who has endorsed Trump and was ostensibly booked on CNN to defend him, instead suggested that the question itself was unfair.
"Bear in mind, I don't believe that [Trump] was warned that that question was coming, and I don't think he really had a chance to really think about it," Carson told CNN's Erin Burnett.
The idea that Trump hasn't "really thought about" one of the most divisive and momentous issues in American society, just weeks before he hopes to be named the Republican nominee for president, is startling, to say the least. Americans have been vigorously debating the parameters of abortion since the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
Equally surprising is Carson's suggestion that candidates should be "warned" about any potentially tough questions ahead of an interview.
But the retired neurosurgeon wasn't finished. "That happens very frequently, and you know, what you develop with experience is how to answer that in a way that is not definitive," he continued. Carson did not explain why presidential candidates should be responding to questions about their principles with mushy non-answers.
"You know how politicians are. He has not really learned that -- he's not a politician," Carson said, referring to Trump's difficulty in dodging the abortion issue.
Carson said he agreed with Trump's second position, that women should not be punished. He noted that Trump was able "to come up with a more rational and informed type of answer" after talking with his staff.
Carson's own view on illegal abortion was rather more compassionate, as one might expect from a career physician.
"I agree that the woman is the victim," he said. "She's traumatized emotionally and in many other ways that's problematic. In terms of who should be punished, that woman has already been punished."
"But if it has become illegal, then obviously the person performing the abortion is the person who is breaking the law, and a determination needs to be made in terms of it -- that is, a civil penalty or something more severe," he said.