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. Anon

    At least they didn't ask him about Becki-becki-becki-stan-stan.

    November 15, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. hannah

    Cain can see Libya from his back porch. How pathetic. Not one of the people running for the GOP nomination is ready to be president. They are all just there to support corporations and the rich and make sure that the middle class goes away. No health care for you, more wars, with torture, less government to monitor the banks and mortgage companies so we can have more boom and bust economies, to take more away from the middle class.

    November 15, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. angela

    Blame yourself! That's from the peasants!

    November 15, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. angela

    What happpened Cain? Did your brain get washed out. P.s The A/A community

    November 15, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. bluedogboy

    China and now Libya. Does this man know anything about the world we live in? These tea party people have to go. All of them.

    November 15, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. dman

    Well, at least he didn't spout the party line. If you ask any of the other Republican candidates the same question, they will say that Obama was wrong. Their reasoning would be that he is a Democrat, and they don't want him to win a second term. If Bush had done the same thing, he would have been hailed as a hero.

    November 15, 2011 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. Jim E

    People make too much out of these gaffs... I would rather have a politician pause and offer a real answer than parrot the same politically correct response. Herman is competent, accomplished and far superior a choice than the man who thinks we have 57 states in office now.

    November 15, 2011 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. Maryellen

    It doesn't matter what the question is or whether they know the answer the only thing the GOP is trained to do is disagree with the president. Another one bites the dust!

    November 15, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. JimAR

    It's like visiting your grandparent in a nursing home.

    November 15, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. FactCheck

    Right, right.. this is more of that "liberal lame-stream gotcha journalism" where a candidate is asked a question and is expected to have a reply. Didn't they get the memo from Fox? You can only ask questions that have been pre-screened and pre-answered by the candidate's handlers (and/or Fox News employees).

    November 15, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. steven

    All you can say is ..... Oops.

    November 15, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Democrat Party - leftist "progressive" socialist communist losers hellbent on destroying the USA

    Richard in Houston
    I guess Lybia was not on one of the 1 page briefings he get everynow and then
    ==============================================================

    Neither was LIBYA... Another fine example of our union run public schools!

    November 15, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. Rambling Parry

    But excuse me, Excuse me!!

    November 15, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. Luke Brown

    The problem was that Mr. Cain did not know how to answer the question on Libya without giving Obama credit for doing something right. Herman, sometimes Obama does the right thing, and you need to know how to say that and move on. Instead you tried your hardest to come up with some BS answer that you hoped the media and the public would bite on.

    The problem with Cain is (1) he has trouble telling the truth (2) he blames everyone but himself for his screw-ups, and (3) his ability to be glib and avoid accountability as a talk show host is not a skill that makes him a good candidate or President.

    Accountability is a heck of thing.

    November 15, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  15. busterrhymes

    "...and when they ask me a 'gotcha' question about Lib-ya-ya-stan-stan, I'm already prepared: I will say I have no clue...or wait, that's a different one...but if I do decide to go with "no clue" I certainly will elaborate at great length concerning my ignorance...OK...is that clear enough? Are we talking about the same thing?"

    November 15, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. Marcus

    "Libya...Libya.....Can you use it in a sentence for me?"

    -Herman Cain

    November 15, 2011 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Boo Hoo Baynor

    Uzbeki beki beki beki beki beki beki beki beki beki beki beki stan stan. lol

    November 15, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  18. Debbie

    All I know is that most of us that voted for Obama only did so because the media hyped him or we felt guilty not to... Now that we see someone who might not have canned answers and would like more information before jumping in like most politicians we take the easy shots...what is missing is how many people jumped on Obama during his first major speech in Cairo Egypt where he stuttered and stammered for 35 minutes!!! It was way more embarrassing than Cain but the media said he was just tired from jet lag even though he had been in the region for several days....

    November 15, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Oh Lawd, come the hell on!
    His eye started to twitch for Jeepers sakes!
    Total meltdown of this non-candidate.
    The Koch brothers are going to disown you Cain if you don't give them their money's worth, and then where will you be?
    Hawking pizzas for 9.99.

    November 15, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Debbie

    Cain has a proven track record of making tough decisions and turning around a bankrupt business into a fortune 500 company...Obama accomplished nothing of significance before becoming the president. He is a hack who has lived off of the government and he is a man-child who is clueless about what to do with our bankrupt economy. We don't need a slick politician who sucks if he is not reading a tele prompter we need someone like Cain to actually do something...

    November 15, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  21. steven

    Amazing. He could not find it in himself to outright agree that the President did the right thing. I bet if Obama said the lights in the room were on, Cain (or any GOP contender) would have trouble agreeing. He would find fault whether the light was fully lit or it is mostly dim with a spark of light or need help defining what "on" meant. The GOP runners are not qualified to be President, they just want Obama out. Who cares about the country, just get Obama out.

    November 15, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  22. pakman

    You seriously can't make this stuff up!!!!!!!! How many more debates are there?........way to go GOTP!!!!!!

    November 15, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. Debbie

    I once was a mindless liberal who could simply believed everything the government/politicians fed me. I have seen the light of becoming an independent thinker, doer, and voter... I am no longer on welfare because I quit believing that the government is the solution to all of life's problems. I feel sad for my liberal friends because they could never survive outside a nanny state, which is right where Obama and Pelosi want their little children to be...

    November 15, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. Man amongst children

    Cain is doing the best that he can. That is why he should not be elected to anything .

    November 15, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  25. Terri

    It is painful knowing this man has support at all.

    November 15, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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