Cain stumbles over Libya
November 14th, 2011
06:14 PM ET
2 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. Anonymous

    I have no problem with someone taking time to collect their thoughts. Normally, it shows that they are actually considering the question and would like to give a thoughtful answer instead of immediately spouting off a canned answer for the sake of appeasing the republican base. But in this case, Mr. Cain took those 8 seconds to come up with the most wish washy answer I have ever heard. First he says no, then he says yes but with certain conditions, and then essentially says no but that he would have come to the same decision just in a different way. He is obviously full of it and has been since day one. Maybe if he settles all of the things "twirling around" in his head he can concentrate on actually solving problems through the private sector as the businessman he claims to be.

    November 15, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. Full Timer

    I could just see that Bozo in a face to face meeting with the PM of Israel ...let's see. Pause. You're our friends – right?

    November 15, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  3. Ed Burke

    Another GOPer who can't think on his feet. Maybe it's because there's nothing going on in his head, except all that swirling. In any case he's simply not ready for primetime. Where does the GOP come up with these people? I know they have some intelligent, qualified people in their party. But they cultivated their "base" for so long that nobody who's intelligent and emotionally mature can get nominated for anything. They don't want moderates in their party so I guess we'll just have to vote Democratic.

    November 15, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  4. max

    @gkingii

    "Wonder what Obama would have said if he had been asked a "gotcha" question like that a year before he won".

    Are you serious.... "gotcha"? This position is for leader of the free world. Obama got it right on Iraq before he won...after he won, he got it right also!!! If you are seeking the post make sure you are prepared to run with the big boys. How long has Libya been in the news? Even if you are not familiar with the country from your educational background you should at least have some knowledge based on current events for the past couple of years. If Cain can learn basic wold and current affairs, how is he gonna lead.
    Can't believe that to answer intelligently on basic foreign policy is elitism and to be asked about this topic amounts to a a "gotcha question". Seriously!

    November 15, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. max

    Correction...If Cain can't

    November 15, 2011 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. excitizen

    For those of you who are complaining that he simply took a pause to think: What answer did he finally give? He didn't. He said he would have done it differently from Obama, but never said in what way. Copped out by saying he would need more information, although the same result would have come from it. That's not an answer, that is avoiding the answer. Geeze! you people actually vote?

    November 15, 2011 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  7. Jeff in TX

    Annie,Atlanta, well-put. It was difficult to watch him twist in his chair and fidget. Then the "no that's something else....got so much swirling in my head" was awful. Really contrasts his jovial "beki-beki-beki-stan" bit. Unelectable.

    November 15, 2011 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  8. Laverne

    Please, I can't take anymore of Herman Cain, the more I hear and see the more I am CONVINCED President Obama is the best person to lead this country!

    November 15, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Four and The Door (who stated) "All can beat Obama. The question is who can win large enough to sweep majorities in the Senate and House along with Governor races? I think Romney right now. He's got broad enough appeal and for all the right reasons. Experience, knowledge, vision, intelligence, integrity, ambition..."
    --
    Romney, huh? With a sweeping Republican majority to boot? Not going to happen, dude. By the time America gets past the next 13 scheduled Republican debates, we will ALL have become exhausted by Mitt Romney and his "groveling for votes" talking point rhetoric.

    As for Herman Cain, was this interview a book signing event or a presidential campaign event? There is such confusion between the two, especially for Mr. Cain, who seems to have great difficulty deciding which is more important to him, become President of the United States or sell his book.

    November 15, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  10. markula

    If this gentelman becomes in fact Obama's opponent I'm gonna have to vote for the first time in my life. Not for Obama, but against Cain.

    November 15, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  11. Dennis

    That's what happens when you only get your news from one source like Fox. Facts are not important to Fox but a president really neess to understand all the facts.

    November 15, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. ja

    that goes to show the presidency is not for everybody with fifthy cents more than their needs require, being under pressure bring out the truth

    November 15, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  13. bmesc

    Not fair! He was expecting, "'Who is the President of Ubeckkbeckkycanstan?"

    November 15, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. Andrea

    I know more about Libya than he does, and can point it out on a map. Seriously, he has people who can brief him on current foreign policy, he can read the news on the internet on NON-BIASED sites. If he was in an interview, which you can kind of call this, your job is to know enough about your audience and what they way ask you. He should been able to answer that questions as well as others immediately, that would be his job as President. He is a joke.

    November 15, 2011 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. DrJStrangepork

    I don't count off for stopping to think, but I do count off for attempting to look like he knew what was going on.
    Just like Palin's bad interviews... if you don't know what you are talking about, just say it, but you do have to do it quick and honorably.

    November 15, 2011 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  16. excitizen

    gkingii – says – "Wonder what Obama would have said if he had been asked a "gotcha" question like that a year before he won." GOTCHA QUESTION????? Are you serious???? This was a very basic question about something that has been front and center in the news and congress for the better part of a year???? I guess by your standards, we're not allowed to ask them anything! Defending the indefensible – why?

    November 15, 2011 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  17. Eric

    This Clip is better than Saturday Night Live! Cain is finally showing America that he has no clue about being POTUS.

    November 15, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. maxie

    it would be funny if it weren't true. this man lives in a paper bag, and knows nothing about foreign policy. I cannot measure his stature with the likes of Kenneday, Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Powell, and many many more. HE is such a big dummy.

    November 15, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  19. Anonymous

    extra cheese and pepperoni plse. thanks mr cain

    November 15, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  20. Paul1st

    Cain was able to acknowledge that he needed more information. This is somewhat refreshing in a time where every candidate attempts to not only know it all but also pretends to have pondered an issue over time. What is most revealing is that Cain's knee-jerk reaction was that Obama handled Libya improperly. Cain is so used to bashing Obama, he starts any response to any question about Obama with an immediate condemnation. Let's see if Cain can build on this newly found open-mindedness. If he does, he surely will lose his political base.

    November 15, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  21. qubee

    Manfreedy & Johnson are looking so much better than this fiasco of an interview. (i..e for those not familiar with M&J, google or Wiki The Penguins of Madagascar)

    November 15, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  22. steven harnack

    For those of you who read an article that CNN ran the other day about how to tell when someone is lying, this is a textbook case. He exhibited every one of the things to look for to tell if someone is lying. Classic!

    November 15, 2011 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  23. The X

    What if we stopped all the Libya, Iraq, Iran issue, and CAME BACK HOME, just like RON PAUL has been saying for all these years?

    I'm voting for him, he has EARNED my vote with his truth and honesty. And with FREEDOM.

    RON PAUL 2012!

    November 15, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  24. Jake

    Joke is on the GOP! he doesn't even have the appropriate campaign staff in place! he has not intention of becoming President, but he's so happy you are all buying his book!

    November 15, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  25. Frankie

    Problem is with these Republican candidates that the first thought on a question like this is "I need to disagree with Obama here. Now how do I do that when I don't know the issue?"

    November 15, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
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