Cain stumbles over Libya
November 14th, 2011
06:14 PM ET
3 years ago

Cain stumbles over Libya

(CNN) - Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain took a moment Monday to clarify his position on Libya: He needs more information.

After an uncomfortable eight-second pause to collect his thoughts, the GOP contender explained that he would need to know more before he could unequivocally agree or disagree with President Barack Obama's actions in the conflicted country.

Cain was meeting with the editorial board of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel when Libya came up.

"Okay, Libya," he responded when asked whether he agreed with President Obama's actions in the region. Eight seconds later, after looking up, biting his lip and blinking repeatedly, Cain asked, "President Obama supported the uprising, correct?"

"I just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I say 'Yes, I agree' or 'No, I do not agree."

But just as Cain, a former conservative talk radio host, started to respond to the question, he then changed his mind.

"I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reasons - um, no, that's a different one," he said, before uncrossing and crossing his legs, shifting position in his seat, and adjusting his jacket.

"Let's see, I've got to go back, see," he continues. "(I've) got all this stuff twirling around in my head."

"Are you asking me did I agree or not agree with Obama?"

Cain finally settled on a response after hearing the question rephrased a second time.

"It's not a simple yes/no because there are different pieces and I would've gone about assessing the situation differently, which might have caused us to end up at the same place, but I think more could've been done was, what's the nature of the opposition?"

He explained that he would have gotten more information on determining who the opposition was, but said, "I'm sure that our intelligence people had some of that information." Although he declined to criticize the president, Cain said he didn't think enough was done.

And before he was challenged on the clarity of his response, Cain asserted, "I'm not trying to hedge on the questions, it's just that's my nature as a businessman, I need to know all of the facts, I would need to know all of the alternatives."

"It's not a clear yes/no," he said again. "Because of all those things I think that should have been assessed… I don't know that they were or were not assessed."

"I didn't see reports of that assessment."

Campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon described the video of Cain's awkward moment as "out of context in some measure."

"He just had to think about it," Gordon said, because the candidate "had been getting a lot of briefings on the subtleties of the Arab Spring."

Gordon pointed out that Cain had been fielding questions from several editorial board members for 45 minutes and "skipping around from every topic from A to Z."

Cain's popularity fell 11 points in a CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, falling to third place behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Cain's candidacy has been plagued by allegations of sexual harassment in recent weeks, which he has said are not true.

And he had a simple explanation for his apparent stumble at an event in Wisconsin late Monday: “I mean, they asked me a question about Libya, and I paused…so I could gather my thoughts," he said. "You know, it’s really complimentary when people start documenting my pauses. You know it’s one thing to document every word. It was a pause. That’s all it was. Good grief.”

–CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Herman Cain • Libya
soundoff (487 Responses)
  1. sqeptiq

    Obviously a trick gotcha question from a mouthpiece of the "democrat machine." Herman should learn from Sarah and only talk to Faux News.

    November 15, 2011 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  2. rapierpoint

    a) how much time did it take Obama to make a decision regarding our actions in Libya? Probably more than 8 seconds. Also, Cain is admitting that he doesn't have all the intel, etc that Obama did, so, without that, how can he say whether he supports the actions or not. Any one of the candidates that say they unequivocally would have done things different is just giving us a story since none of them know all the facts leading to Obama's decisions. Only if they have access to the same data the President did at the time, could they give us a completely truthful answer.

    November 15, 2011 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  3. MaryM

    Just a pizza man. Cain is not Presidential material

    November 15, 2011 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. Lolo

    Just pitiful. He needs to come to grips that he is being used by the gop/tea partiers.

    November 15, 2011 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  5. boocat

    I cannot believe there are some people defending this guy. I swear the conservative morons live in some kind of alternate universe.

    November 15, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  6. carlos mendez

    This is what I would say to Mr. Cain. Stop playing game of know it all card. You simply don't know the answers and we are not going to wait here an hours or so for your yes or no. You either say yes or not. Don't think about gathering information think about what would you do if you put yourself in a position of President. I don't think I would vote for you. Thank you and you have a miserable day.......

    November 15, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  7. keith L

    Looks as if he was looking for a way to disagree with Obama. It is ok to agree with what the other side if that is what you believe. I guess he was looking for the right answer for his Tea Party supporters.

    November 15, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  8. M-AZ Independent - I hate Godfather's Pizza!

    I saw this piece yesterday on the evening news, and even I could identify the events that took place in Libya. I thought this has got to be the biggest clown in and around town; he did however manage to chime in that the President didn't handle the situation right, but he could not articulate why.

    Herman Cain just go back to your corner; you have nothing to offer America in terms of leadership, therefore you are part of the problem.

    November 15, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  9. Chae

    gkingii: In what way is that a "gotcha" question? I would be surprised if all other candidates with possible exception of Michelle Bachmann have a carefully scripted, campaign-approved answer to that question. That's a part of running a campaign against an incumbent. Your handlers are supposed to prepare and prep you against these expected questions. That's why Perry's stumble was so newsworthy because the misstep reflects not only on him but also his staff, and additionally, Perry's ability to pick the staff that can best help him, since as a President, he'll be tasked with filling the cabinet with competent people he can trust.

    November 15, 2011 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  10. Paul

    Hang it up, Herman.

    November 15, 2011 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  11. Randy, San Francisco

    Cain has clearly shown that he can't be trusted to answer the hot line phone at 3 am.

    November 15, 2011 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  12. Knowbuddy

    @FedUp "At least he answered that he needed more info." And yet Cain also said he would have handled it differently and more should have been done (such opinion based on needing more info?). "Obama would have avoided the question altogether." Hypothetical useless because he already answered the question with actions.

    November 15, 2011 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  13. Johnson

    Some people on here tried to defend him because he took his time to answer the question (REALLY). He was sure of one of his answers that he disagreed with the way Obama handled Lybia, he knew that he had to be against the President (THAT IS ALL HE KNEW). LMAO

    November 15, 2011 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  14. Al-NY,NY

    I guess he wasn't expecting a question about an important foreign affairs issue so he did not even prep an answer to a simple question. Not only is he not presidential material but his staff is inept at best. NEXT!

    November 15, 2011 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  15. meb

    The few stating that Obama would have avoided the question or stating that this was a "gotcha" question are really in denial of the facts. Any question that makes your guy look stupid is a "gotcha" question. The Libya situation has been going on for more than 6 months and he still can't formulate an adequate answer. Obama's understanding of international relations and events far surpasses anyone in the GOP field. The closest to him would be Ron Paul, but the GOP doesn't want to hear Ron because he tells the truth on issues.

    November 15, 2011 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  16. Debbie

    As a black woman I supported Obama like many of us who simply wanted a minority represented in the white house for once and I appreciated how the media minimized some of his associations with his crazy pastor and friend Bill Ayers, but now that we have a chance to vote for an even better black man who has not been tainted and bought by washington the media is silent...kinda makes you wonder that if you are black and not a democrat you don't get protection.

    November 15, 2011 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  17. Major

    He is a pizza executive who views the presidency as "CEO of the United States, Inc." In his days as head honcho of a pizza company, he could mumble anything he wanted knowing he was the boss and his employees had to listen to him and do what he says like it or not. Not anymore.

    November 15, 2011 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. coy4one

    I wonder how long the pause would be if the reported asked him whether he was runing for President or not....

    November 15, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. AEJ

    This guy is "toast". Mr. Zling, Sling!!! Tell the Tea Party crowd what they want to hear, then the Idiots jump up and say "yeah"!!!! Oh what a little education would do – Sarah Palin included. Toasters all the way!!!

    November 15, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  20. Lindsey

    Cain was done before he started. Flavor of the Month, is all. The "new" flavor of the month is Newt "I like to screw around on my wive(s)" Gingrich. Republicans have demonstrated they're absolutely clueless on what a viable candidate looks, acts, and sounds like.

    November 15, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  21. v_mag

    It's obviously unfair to expect Herman Cain to know anything much about Libya. After all, that Arab Spring happened ages ago. They should ask him something more appropriate, like what continent is Libya on.

    November 15, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  22. brownstain

    Ubekibekibekekistanstanlibliblibyayaya.
    Herman asks "is this a country or a pizza topping".

    November 15, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  23. Dan5404

    His 15 minutes are over. Now, it's a Gingrich-Perry fight until the increased spotlight and scrutiny of their background trips them up, too. Romney is a lukewarm choice at best. If the supercommittee fails, there will be a brand new round of the blame game and it will be up to the voters to decide who is really at fault as we head into destructive automatic cuts and a probable 2nd debt rate downgrade. If the GOP insists on damaging cuts to Social Security and Medicare with no increased net tax revenue while giving trillions in tax cuts to business, this country will blame them for the ensuing disaster.

    November 15, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  24. openyoureyes

    All of you that justify this did you miss the part where he stumbles and says "Wait nevermind, that's from something else" ?

    November 15, 2011 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  25. scmom

    Wow,really. Best answer always, I would have done it better. But they never say what.

    November 15, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
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