Ben Carson botched an interview about the debt ceiling

Ben Carson's Economic Plan
Ben Carson's Economic Plan

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson seemingly stumbled in a radio interview published Wednesday when he was pressed about the US debt limit.

In an awkward back-and-forth on "Marketplace," the top-tier GOP presidential candidate baffled host Kai Ryssdal by apparently conflating the debt limit with broader budgetary issues.

Ryssdal asked Carson if the US should raise the debt limit, a hot-button issue that has repeatedly generated congressional brinkmanship in recent years.

The Treasury Department recently told congressional leaders that Congress would need to raise the nation's debt ceiling by Nov. 5 to avoid risking a default on the nation's obligations.

Many economists say raising the debt limit is essential to avoid a potential catastrophic default. In recent years, conservative lawmakers have tied increasing that cap to demands for spending cuts. President Barack Obama has said he won't negotiate over the issue.

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Carson told Ryssdal that he "would not sign an increased budget," but as the radio host repeatedly noted, raising the debt limit only addresses the US' ability to pay the debt it's already amassed.

"I'm going try one more time, sir," Ryssdal said after explaining the issue a few times. "This is debt that's already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?"

They then moved onto other topics.

For Carson, a political neophyte, the wonky but important debt-limit issue could raise additional concerns among his critics who say he's unprepared for the Oval Office.

Click here to listen to the full Carson interview.

A transcript of the debt-limit exchange is below:

Ryssdal: All right, so let's talk about debt then and the budget. As you know, Treasury Secretary Lew has come out in the last couple of days and said, "We're going to run out of money, we're going to run out of borrowing authority, on the fifth of November." Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit? Should we default on our debt?

Carson: Let me put it this way: If I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.

Ryssdal: To be clear, it's increasing the debt limit, not the budget, but I want to make sure I understand you. You'd let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit?

Carson: No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, "Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we're not raising any spending limits, period."

Ryssdal: I'm going try one more time, sir. This is debt that's already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?

Carson: What I'm saying is what we have to do is restructure the way that we create debt. I mean if we continue along this, where does it stop? It never stops. You're always going ask the same question every year. And we're just gonna keep going down that pathway. That's one of the things I think that the people are tired of.

Ryssdal: I'm really trying not to be circular here, Dr. Carson, but if you're not going to raise the debt limit and you're not going to give specifics on what you're gonna cut, then how are we going to know what you are going to do as president of the United States?

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Originally published