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. sayquitter

    Yep!, he's done.

    November 15, 2011 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  2. ej

    Come on folks, Cain's not a serious presidential candidate. I sit down & watch the GOP debates as entertainment, popcorn and all!

    November 15, 2011 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. one voice

    My 10 year old nephew saw this interview and knew the answer, ENOUGH SAID.

    November 15, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. Emmy Skaddittle

    Are the republicans really serious about nominating a credible candidate? Obama is looking better everyday

    November 15, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  5. Mike In Carolina

    It wasn't a "gotcha" question. Any casual observer of currents should at least be able to express a clear opinion. Saying that he didn't like the way Obama handled Libya without saying what he'd do differently reveals that he doesn't have a grasp on this or many other foreign policy issues. We saw the real Herman Cain: only good at delivering prepared talking points but that's all.

    November 15, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. Bemused

    So many comments here give Cain credit for , ehmm, wanting the "facts first".
    The real funny thing is, how come they are ALL criticizing Pres Obama when they obviously don't have ALL the facts first? They just shoot off their mouths, all those candidates without having all the facts. Cain proved that's the case (let's not even mention barbie and the 2 Rick boys). None of them have been informed of the classified decisions that come out of the White House or Pentagon. How dare they? These immature bully boys. Grade D.

    November 15, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  7. nytw

    There is currently no national sales tax. Herman Cain want to implement a NEW national sales tax. I can not believe conservatives are being blinded by the pro-Cain main stream conservative media. The man in a RINO that wants to implement a new tax on WE, THE PEOPLE.

    November 15, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  8. laura from willis

    Who ya gonna call, Herman? GHOSTBUSTERS? Oh, wait a minute, I know: DIAL 999!
    In your best interest, Mr. Cain, stick to Pizza!

    November 15, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  9. Steve

    Herman may not be the polished politician that most of you seem to want, but at least his answer is honest. He still has lots of support. Obama stumbles frequently also.

    November 15, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  10. sid

    I understand because Mr Cain has been busy studying up on Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan. He can answer any question regarding that country.

    November 15, 2011 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. Sorry to Disappoint

    Herman, sorry, you have shown us very nicely that governing a super power and complex society is way over the head of a businessman. It's not all about money. It's about diplomacy, complicated situations, negotiations, constitutional and ethical decisions, weighing and balancing contradicting evidence.
    You, Mr Cain, have been found lacking. BTW have you heard that there are a couple more countries (kidding) with nuclear capabilities? Oh, Gaddafi apparently had bio and chemical WMD (thats weapons of mass destruction). What would you have done since you surely don't have all the facts?

    November 15, 2011 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  12. vatoloke

    That was most painful to witness. The guy doesn't know squat about the subject and instead of admitting it he tries to tap-dance with lead shoes on. Pretty pathetic if you ask me. Mr. Cain, you can return to the pizza parlor kitchen where you belong.

    November 15, 2011 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  13. Tom

    I like reading some of the Cain supporters comments about how would Obama react to a "gotcha" question, etc. Folks wake up, Obama reacted as POTUS if you disagree with his decisions, fine, but he did not hem and haw and gather his thoughts. Cain had a benefit that Obama did not have, what happened is history to Cain. Did he miss that briefing on foreign affairs?

    November 15, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. d

    Can we please stop considering this guy a serious contender for the presidency? He has NO understanding of foreign policy, and the fact that he can't form a coherent opinion on Obama's handling of Libya shows that he hasn't been watching the news at all this year. A presidential candidate doesn't need to know everything, but basic knowledge of current events would be nice.

    November 15, 2011 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  15. Mons

    Can you imagine a Herman Cain as president, and a Rick Perry as vice president? And the Republicans want deep cuts in the Departmen of Education budget.

    November 15, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  16. Sorry to Disappoint

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

    One small problem there, my friend: Obama was the ONE to solve the problem. No avoiding decisions here. He took action and succeeded. Thank you, Mr President.

    November 15, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  17. OneDayMaybe

    Mr Cain is not up for the job. Maybe he can take lessons on debating and thinking on his feet from Newt Gingrich. Neither of them are qualified to even speak to Ron Paul about foreign policy, but at least he could stop putting his foot in his mouth.

    November 15, 2011 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  18. mklsgl

    Herman Cain and the entire field of GOP candidates = Moot Topic.

    November 15, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. Sniffit

    In other words: another know-nothing with no actual background education on the subject or thoughts, beliefs and ideas of his own regarding the appropriate policy decisions to be making with respect thereto, forgot the pre-prepared lines fed to him by people he paid to have the education and think the thoughts for him....most of whom are actually similarly ignorant and vapid and merely generate said pre-prepared lines by looking at polling data.

    November 15, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  20. Jacy Houston

    A pause or a moment to collect his thoughts is understandeable... but he obviously didn't know the subject, which is a major national security current event. No excuse for someone trying to be president. Absolutely no excuse.

    November 15, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  21. Man DeLorean

    It is a tribute to the success of the Tea Party that they are getting exactly the candidates they have demanded: Perry, Cain, Bachmann, etc. The rest of us aren't intimidated by the idea that our President might be more intelligent or knowledgeable than we are.

    November 15, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  22. V in Chicago

    Another "taken out of context" moment? This guy has an excuse for everything. If he can't answer a question about one of the most covered political issues in the last 6 months, he has no business trying to get the job of running this country. Looks like the Kock brothers didn't invest well with this one – next!

    November 15, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  23. Maine LIberal

    What will he do when he gets the "3 am phone call"

    November 15, 2011 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  24. Balls McGhee

    i'll answer it for you Cain. Obama was amazing in handling the war in Libya even though all the GOP said from the beginning that he was making a bad mistake. On behalf of the enitre Republican Party, we apologize to Mr President.

    November 15, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  25. mg

    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"

    I just can't stop laughing at that answer.

    November 15, 2011 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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