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. Olaf Big

    This is really interesting. It is so obvious that Cain is nowhere close to be a serious candidate. Yet, the republicans are desperately searching for an alternative to the only viable candidate they have, Mitt Romney. Every one of these completely implausible candidates, like Bachmann, Perry, Cain, now Gingrich experience a short-lived surge in the polls before it becomes painfully obvious that this one won't make it either. I think it is actually a hopeful sign for America that the only republican candidate who got a chance of making it to the White House is an intelligent person with moderate views and a record of success in business and politics.

    November 15, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  2. dcmisty

    Is is just me or is Mr. Cain starting to sound like a certain former Alaska governor who also had problems with answering simple questions and then blamed the media for asking "gotcha" questions and anything else that went wrong. Maybe Mr. Cain's campaign needs to explain to him the difference between CEO and POTUS!

    November 15, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  3. Chris

    Cain is sadly not very different from most corporate American CEOs – loud talking and blustery, and a good salesman to his simpering followers – but possessing little in terms of deep knowledge, analysis, or critical thinking skills.

    November 15, 2011 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. broscutza

    This guy is a joke. He always needs to see reports or ask his analysts. Why is he running again? He doesn't know anything about anything. How can ppl still want to vote for him blows my mind. He can barely speak English correctly.

    November 15, 2011 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. ccastine

    amazing that some people would vote for him. he doesn't care about this...he doesn't even know what is going on in the world. sadly enough there are followers of his that know more about domestic and foreign events than he does, and we are not exactly talking about the cream of the crop here, after all they support Herman Cain. how smart can you be to support the biggest idiot politician in the land? oh yeah then there is rick perry michelle bachman sarah palin and newt gingrich.

    November 15, 2011 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. garc

    Odd how the commenters last time saying "Democrats are just afraid of Cain versus Obama in a debate!" have disappeared.

    November 15, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. pete

    I am a CPA, and have gone over Cain's 9-9-9. It's clear....1.) He doesn't understand economics at all 2.) He is making up his campaign as he goes along and has no valid leadership around him to advise him on running the country. 3.) His 9-9-9 will be a 50% tax cut to the wealthiest Americans, and a 33% tax increase to those with family income of $60K or less (90% of the populous) and 4.) the 9-9-9 plan will cause all of us to pay a ridiculous hidden VAT which will only incrase over time and add huge costs to goods and services.

    November 15, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. Annatala

    "Libyastanstan, right? That's the one in Persiarabia, you mean? Do we have troops in there or something? Obviously I would have done things better than the President, by better assessing information, or using data, or, um...er, what did he do exactly again? Did we support the uprising here?"

    November 15, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. MrLiberty

    Ron Paul's principled stand came out of his mouth within minutes of finding out that Obama had violated the constitution by engaging US forces in Libya without congressional declaration of war. Ron Paul has always been against and doesn't need a researcher to find out the "politically-correct" answer to give. If you want peace, there is only one choice – Ron Paul 2012.

    November 15, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. sunpacific

    Wow. Forget about the allegations- here's a person who doesn't even know what the U.S. position in Libya was and he wants to be POTUS. I'm an engineer. I read the news occasionally and I know what's going on. The fact that he was flavor of the month shows how the teapublicans really don't care about the issues: they just want to replace Obama. Now Cain can move over for Newt until the far-right are put off by him as well. Great job GOP.

    November 15, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. Susan Booth

    OMG! OMG! OMG! This guy seriously thinks he is qualified to run for office? Does he not watch the news? It sounds like he is getting all of information from Sarah Palin. Scary.

    November 15, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  12. Rsprings

    While I admire his effort..he isn't the candidate the GOP will pick. He is uninformed on to many issues.

    November 15, 2011 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  13. Common Sense

    Let's face it everybody who's running for President thinks that they can do a better job then in the person in office. Then the questions begin and suddenly there's the realization of maybe I can't do the bang up job I thought I could do. The job of President in the US is basically a job of suggestion. They suggest the direction they think the country should go and Congress passes the laws that mandates the direction. Veto, get serious a two thirds vote of Congress can override a veto. So instead of concentrating on all the pretenders to the throne let's concentrate on the actual law makers. See who's running in our districts and see who has the most common sense.

    November 15, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. CAW

    So...he gets woken up at 2am and told China just launched a Nuclear attack. Does he think he gets 24 hours to decide that he needs more information?

    November 15, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Richard in Houston

    I guess Lybia was not on one of the 1 page briefings he get everynow and then.

    November 15, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. Pam

    This is exactly what is wrong with most of these candidates – they know very little about the issues that they bash others on!
    Ex-CEO's and governors (current and former) are the most ignorant on foreign affairs and are not qualified to be President.
    The only GOP candidate who does have this knowledge is Ron Paul, and as a Democrat, he is looking more and more like someone I would consider voting for!

    November 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. Mike

    Ding.....your 15 minutes are up!

    November 15, 2011 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. mesamick

    Hermie's FIRST big stumble...He thought he had the chops to run AND get elected POTUS...

    November 15, 2011 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. Robrob

    "...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."

    The "Not Ready for Prime Time" candidate.

    November 15, 2011 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  20. Boomer in Mo

    Pete the CPA is right. And Cain is so wrong. Why don't the Republicans like Jon Huntsman. He's the best in the current field.

    November 15, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. Primewonk

    Maine LIberal wrote, "What will he do when he gets the "3 am phone call". "

    Um...Ask if they want bread sticks with that pizza?

    November 15, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. Corporations R. People II

    So Herb, does this mean that the rest of the GOTP clowns shouldn't be opining on Libya since they don't have all the relevant info, too?
    Newt (the smart guy according to the GOTP) has covered his bases in a Romney-esque fashion: flip-flopped and flipped again so as to try to seem like he's against Obama even though Moamar is no mo' without a single US casualty..Best thing a GOTPer could do to appear to have a shred of credibility is to say the President did well in managing the Libya situation. But credibility left the not so Grand very OLD tea party a long time ago...

    November 15, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  23. Victoria

    My 14 year old knows Libya better than this guy. My CAT knows Libya better than this guy!!

    November 15, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. DaveinPA

    He's DONE !

    November 15, 2011 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. JohnM

    gkingii

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

    November 15, 2011 08:34 am at 8:34 am |

    Silly Sarah is gkingii your comments pen name? Gotcha! again and again and again

    November 15, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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