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. Kodes100

    Herman Cain you are NOT ready for prime time!

    November 15, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  2. Dan Druff

    Cain sounds just like a student trying to bluff his way on an issue he knows nothing about.

    November 15, 2011 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  3. Dan

    Remember, just last weekend, Mr. Cain participated in a debate on national security.

    Mr Cain stumbling looks bad in the video, but can be forgiven. His comments later in the day indicate he's a liar and he accepts no personal responsibility for his actions. Coming from a man who blames the poor and middle class for losing their jobs, that makes Mr Cain's lack of personal responsibility unforgivable.

    It also makes me doubt his version of the sexual harassment charges.

    November 15, 2011 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  4. PageForward

    Cain obviously did not know enough to even begin to address the issue, other than to say he disagreed with Obama, although he did not know what he was disagreeing with. What is truly frightening is that he had support of 20+% until his alleged sexual harrassment came to light. Who is uninformed, Cain or the average voter??

    November 15, 2011 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  5. kardiac

    If Cain's not careful he will talk his way out of the gig at FOX. The real reason he is running. I don't think he ever really expected to be where he was in the polls

    November 15, 2011 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  6. JustCurious2

    They should have asked him about Uzbekibekibekistanstan :-)

    November 15, 2011 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  7. American

    gkingli = Fed Up,
    To the contrary, please remember President Obama did answer the "gotcha" question during the primary about Bin Laden/Pakistan, and he ended up being exactly right.

    I may not agree with Obama on everything, but the best thing he has going for him is the circus act running against him. Now that Cain is showing his lack of qualification, the new "anyone but Romney flip-flopped again" is Newt...

    November 15, 2011 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  8. susan

    He couldt give an answer but it would have helped him if he could remember what Obama did so he could be against it. That the whole of the GOP strategy these day. That's what you get when Candidates are already bought and sold before they even win the job. After all,the Koch bros are Cains 'brothers from another mother'.

    November 15, 2011 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  9. Cincinnati girl

    This is not a gotcha question. It is a question about a current event that unfolded over a number of months in a 24 hour news cycle environment. With the number of politicians, news analysts, journalists, politically active celebs, ambassadors, etc. that have commented on the the Libya situation for the past few months, Herman Cain had absolutely no clue about the situation. He's been coached obviously and his attempts to have the question rephrased are likely linked to a common technique (using keywords or phrases to trigger memorized talking points). If he had some level of understanding of the world around him, he would have been prepared. I think its fair to have a higher expectation of those who are running for our country's highest office. So yes, you do need to have a broader understanding of a variety of topics and I expect you to be able to communicate those thoughts more clearly.

    November 15, 2011 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  10. chris l

    I watch the news. I know that Obama used NATO instead of putting our own boots on the ground and his approach proved successful. I wish Obama had designed the Iraq invasion too.

    November 15, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  11. Dobro

    And this is not a major headline? Wow. I asked my 8-year old about Libya this morning, and he was able to tell me more than Cain.

    November 15, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  12. Corporations R. People II

    You know - that country in the northern part of Africa.....been in the news the last few weeks.....final hint: the rebels forcefully removed the dictator that was there....no? nothing? Can I get an "oops"?
    C'mon Herb, I know it's not one of those 'beka 'beka stans but seriously, "brother" (insert your own Rick Perry joke here) you have to do better than that. That wasn't a pause that was an eternity –just a complete mental breakdown.
    Send in the next clown: Fig Newton, you're up.

    November 15, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  13. Dan in FL

    It's interesting to note that Cain's default response is to disagree with anything that President Obama has done. That appears to be the Republican playbook. Why can't we have an honest discussion about the things the President has done right, the things he has done wrong, and the things he could have done better? By saying everything the President has done is wrong, the Republicans loose all credibility with this voter. Being a political conservative, I want to vote Republican, but given the current freak show of candidates, that's become very difficult to do so.

    November 15, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  14. Eddy lord

    Hello,
    as for me,someone who is pushing his way to the white house,has to wait a moment or more information in details.why America went to libya?is so funny...i personally am not a politician,am just a political fans.i discover that America and Natto went to libya?not that they love libyan people but their economic Gains...Ghadafi do so well,for his country and people but unfortuately no president is a saint,as long as power is concern but Herman cain don"t need seconds before he supposed to asnwer this simple question as someone fighting to be America president...
    Thanks,Eddy lord is a musical activist from France...

    November 15, 2011 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  15. Orchid333

    It's time for Cain and Perry to bow out gracefully and let Ron Paul rise up – let's see how he takes the heat and then I'll know who I'm voting for.

    November 15, 2011 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  16. JoeS

    He didn't do his assignment before He run for President. Before you run for President you give your thoughts at least a year in advance and you got to have a plan for all things. Romney wrote a book about his plan a year before He ran for President, plus He was well informed on all current events.

    November 15, 2011 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  17. Sarah Palin, Fierce Advocate for Childhood Obesity

    "FedUp

    At least he answered that he needed more info. Obama would have avoided the question altogether."

    I think he answered the question with drones, no loss of US lives, and overthrow of a dictator who killed hundreds of US citizens.

    Pretty good answer, I think.

    November 15, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  18. oldsoldierboy

    This is what happens when you absolutely have to try and find a way to oppose success. The GOP has chosen to put themselves in this position.

    November 15, 2011 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. zip

    More importantly, a pretty big percentage of Republicans have been backing this guy. Is there some way we can identify these people and yank their voting privileges?? Cuz if you weren't bright enough to see thru this fraud, you shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a voting booth.

    November 15, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  20. us1776

    "(I've) got all this stuff twirling around in my head."

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

    This was just a funny and pathetic as Perry's brain-meltdown.

    These GOP candidates don't even know where half of these countries are in the world. Or anything about their history and relationship with the U.S. And to think these people want to have access to the "football". Brrrrrr....

    November 15, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  21. CD

    It's not that he paused; it's that once he finally spoke, he used words a high school junior might write to b.s. his way through a history essay question he knows nothing about. I don't think I can watch any more Perry/Cain clips; I'm embarrassed for the two of them.

    November 15, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  22. LegendRx

    Go back 2007, 2008 and review all of Barack Obama's speaking points on any subject, You will find That he (President Obama) is well informed on not just foreign policies but the entire gambit as well . . . Check it out, I dare ya!

    November 15, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  23. Lisa P

    It says a lot about the current GOP field that the "correct answer" is always "I disagree with whatever it was that President Obama did or is planning to do," even when the candidate him or herself can't provide a reason for that disagreement, can't point out what it was that Obama did "wrong" and most importantly can't say how he or she would have handled the situation differently and how that would have produced a better outcome. It would be funny if it weren't so sad. This is what we get when the right wing media gets to choose the candidates - all hat, no cattle x 6 (I'm excluding Huntsman because he actually does seem to have some brains and integrity, and Paul because he's clearly crazy but not in the way Fox News seems to like - they are hardly promoting him at all). God help us all if one of these fools makes it into the White House.

    November 15, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  24. Harry

    I appreciate that he had to stop and think about it – great not to have a recorded message from Fox news at the tip of his tongue for once. But if he didn't know, why did he say that he disagreed with how Obama handled it without giving any example of how he would have done it better? He implied that Obama somehow didn't use the intelligence that was out there – how does he know that? And what more about the opposition would he have liked to know? I'm a big fan of saying you don't know when you don't, that's fine. But "I don't know but I'm sure I could have done it better" is just silly.

    November 15, 2011 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  25. excitizen

    “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.” GOOD GRIEF CAIN – if that's "just a pause" I wonder what your other glib dismissals REALLY represent, i.e. "it was just a harmless gesture" ??? Can you say – couldn't formulate an articulate or even coherent answer, even after several pauses, talking to himself, etc.???? Go back to closing down pizza shops and putting people out of work to increase the company profit margin.

    November 15, 2011 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
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