Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to guests at a barbeque hosted by Jeff Kauffman, chairman of the Republican party of Iowa, on November 22, 2015 in Wilton, Iowa.
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By Zeke J Miller
December 3, 2015

In an effort to prove that he had foreign policy chops before a crowd of Jewish donors, Ben Carson delivered a 30-minute speech that sounded more like a book report than anything else.

Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition Thursday, Carson provided a geographic and political tour of the Middle East, reading off a prepared text as he has seen his poll numbers decline over questions about his preparedness to serve as commander in chief.

“I normally am a spontaneous speaker, but I want to make sure to get all my points in, so I’ll be using a script,” he said as he walked up to the podium.

Even with the prepared text, Carson’s limited knowledge showed, as he repeatedly mispronounced the name of the U.S.-recognized terror group Hamas.

Carson declared the Middle East a “very complicated region,” adding, “It is clear to me that the Obama administration has no understanding of this region.” Carson listed the complexities—from the Hamas and Fatah split, to Iran’s support of Hezbollah—mixed with stories of historic ties between the U.S. and Israel.

Carson also delivered one of the best received lines of the day, joking from his prepared text, “I dare say there are more women fighter pilots in Israel than there are women with drivers licenses in Saudi Arabia”

But Carson was greeted with only a smattering of applause, and was the only candidate not to take questions from either RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks or from reporters during the first half of the day-long event.

Read Next: Watch Carson, Fiorina and Rubio Show How They’d Pardon a Turkey

Write to Zeke J Miller at zeke.miller@time.com.

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