Cain stumbles over Libya
November 14th, 2011
06:14 PM ET
7 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. That interview 'bout Libya

    Cain did not waffle and flip-flop like a politician here, a politician who doesn't know what he's talking about.
    No, Herman Cain waffled and flip flopped around like a flippant businessman who doesn't know what he's talking about.

    Throw in a management phrase here and there, make sure that HE (that's what Herm calls HISself -sic] doesn't agree with Obama on whatever it is and disappoint his TP friends.

    November 15, 2011 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. JohnW

    "Hmm, Libya, Libya.... That's lady parts, right?"

    November 15, 2011 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  3. mendrys

    In other words he doesn't remember what the official rebublican line is supposed to be so he needs to check with the party leaders on what to say lest he accidently support Obama on something where he's not supposed to be supporting Obama.

    November 15, 2011 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  4. An-off moment for Cain...

    An-off moment just that...we all have them...!

    November 15, 2011 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  5. Rmax

    Maybe Cain needs to try STAND-UP COMEDY NEXT TIME!

    November 15, 2011 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. David Dee

    Rudy NYC
    Would someone please ask Mr. Cain what are his sources for news and current events?

    Rudy, that's a easy answer. He like the rest of the ignorant GOPee candidates gets their info from Fox news.

    November 15, 2011 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  7. Hugh G. Rection

    this will make a fantastic commercial for Obama's re-election. PLEASE get the nomination herman!!!

    November 15, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. Jay

    Fool. This guy is just an absolute fool. Do you agree with Obama's action on Libya? Cain's reply, is the answer False?

    And this overt idiot is polling 1st in Iowa? Man the Republican voters are even stupider than I thought.

    November 15, 2011 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  9. Rick

    Yeah he paused alright, like a deer in the headlights paused. because he doesn't know what's going on really, but he sure as hell knows it's something bad.

    November 15, 2011 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  10. Kevin in Atlanta

    Ok, Cain's 15 minutes are up. Who's next on the list?

    Let's see: Bachmann? Check. Perry? Check. Cain? Check. Um....uhhh....oh Newt! You're up!

    November 15, 2011 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. mat

    Obama's visiting the 52nd state in Asia:) lol

    November 15, 2011 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. Rick

    Funny, Cain has 20% support, I'll bet that's the same amount of illiterate hill billys that live in the USA.

    November 15, 2011 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. sunsohot

    Tsk, tsk...oh Hermie, everyone knows that you never had any chance of becoming POTUS and your latest blunder only adds further proof (as if it was needed). Your "campaign" is all just a good ole boy Koch bro chuckle; sort of like the Duke Brothers in "Trading Places".

    November 15, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. REG in AZ

    Why is the media continually wasting time, and thereby people's time, with Cain?

    November 15, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  15. allens

    joca, misstating the number of states is more like a typo than not knowing what is going on in the world. while i agree obama has been dissapointing in his inability to correct bushs mistakes, lets face fact, cain is a fool. you must know this?

    November 15, 2011 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. Patriot

    The idiot further reveals himself. This whole G.O.P. candidates mess just keeps getting more and more and more embarrassing.

    November 15, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. ss26mar

    Oh this is akin to obama stating that hawaii is in Asia don't you think

    give it a rest busy people with lots on their mind make silly mistakes

    November 15, 2011 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  18. Paqrat137

    By now the electorate should have figured that this Cain, Perry, Bachmann round robin is just a distraction. Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate to run against Obama. So why is this going on?

    It is a great distraction from the non-accomplishments of the Republican take over of the House. Since the 2010 election, they have done nothing on jobs, blocked any effort to move the economy, stood in the way of healthcare and have just been obstructionist. They have politicized policies that would have benefited all Americans and with the help of some Democrats, continued to protect there patrons in the corporate, uber-rich and lobbying world. With this side show going on, and it will continue into 2012, Americans are not looking past the front page of the paper to see what is happening.

    Yes, Mitt Romney will be the candidate and unless he does something really dumb...and it would have to be really, really dumb, this should all stop now, and let's see which candidate and which party is really going to make us recover and get healthy for the next four years. We should have had enough of this circus...close the show and let's get moving.

    November 15, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  19. A reasonable person

    In order to answer a question like "Do you approve or disapprove of the President's handling of XYZ?" you would need to be reasonably confident that you have all of the information that the President had at the time decisions were being made AND have all of the new information that has become available subsequently AND have a working hypothesis on what key actions and decisions could have been made to generate a more favorable response. In other words, it is not a failing on the candidate's part the he could not answer – it is a failure on the part of the person asking an impossible question. Most people would see that any meaningless answer is going to open you up to an endless torrent of equally meaningless critique and useless conjecture and feckless posturing.

    I don't know if the candidate reasoned out his answer or fumbled his way through it. I do know that this sound byte is unworthy of the attention it has drawn. Drop it, move on.

    November 15, 2011 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. Chris

    Cain stumbles over Libya, gets foot caught on Egypt, lands in the Red Sea.

    November 15, 2011 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  21. Hangtownie

    I have respect for Libya, I never groped Libya. . .

    November 15, 2011 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  22. dave

    I keep hearing people on here going " he answered the question correctly in saying he would need more information"?!?! the problem is he stated that after saying he doesnt support the presidents desicion, and he woudl have done it better... how could he know this?

    OBAMA 2012!!!!

    November 15, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  23. Paqrat137

    To A Reasonable Person: Agreed it is hard to put yourself in anther's shoes unless you know what s/he knows at the time. This does not prevent you from, nor excuse you, from knowing what you think of what happened and what was done. If you were asked a similar question, most people can say that s/he could have done this, maybe would have done that, but to stumble around like Cain did presents himself as a person who, in a really tight situation, would not be a decisive leader.

    As a CEO he had many, many intelligent officers, manager and employees who knew what the situations were and reported to him and then offered him a myriad of solutions that they had studied up on. I doubt he was down in the trenches gathering the information. Decisions from CEO's come from the opinions of those who give him/her the info.

    The President does not have the luxury of a CEO – s/he must know everything about everything, because s/he is the responsible one. Cain has not shown this attribute in too many occasions that have not been "gotcha moments" but of his own making. Presidential timber, I do not believe he has it in him.

    November 15, 2011 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  24. maggietag

    You libs at Communist News Network are so predictable. If you think you can influence the GOP primary in anyway with your hatred and vitriol you're bigger fools than you appear to be. These kind of hate filled statements only make conservatives' commitment that much stronger to end that "hopey/changey" thing ASAP. Take a look at OWS squalor and decadence. These are the life conditions that will become commonplace and universal if the GOP doesn't take complete control of the Senate, House and Executive branches next year, as predicted.

    November 15, 2011 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  25. max


    You people really need to get a life! Seriously, have you watched any of Obama's blunders? How many times does he say "uh" over and over and over again when he can't find the right words. You all really need to look at Obama before you start throwing those stones at Cain. And as far as Libya is concerned, look who is now in charge there. A whole can of worms have now been opened in the middle east with the change in Libya and Egypt. Next time Obama does one of his speeches watch how many times he pauses or says uh (count the uh's) and don't forget Obama thinks there are 57 states.

    November 15, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |

    Oh Rosie..Obama gaffes are so 2008...why bother when we got all this new material coming from Cain! At least when Obama pauses with know there is a thought being put together intelligently. When Cain raised his eyes to the heavens...I knew it was all over!!!

    November 15, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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