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. Truth hurts

    What a lot of words to simply state that the guy had no clue what to say, what he was talking about and is in deeply over his head.

    November 14, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  2. brian

    Sorry but bumbling around being antsy and scrambling for a non "I don't know" answer is not collecting your thoughts. Funny how as each of the "front runners" gets in the spotlight they collapse like a house of cards.

    November 14, 2011 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  3. Vern

    Good grief All we want is a president that has all the answers, is that so wrong?

    November 14, 2011 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  4. zimbot

    Cain is showing that he is not fit to be in the spotlight. He needs all the information before making a decision? Sorry, that doesn't happen at the President's level and on complex issues such as the Middle East.

    November 14, 2011 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  5. Nothiga

    The media should leave Cain alone. He seriously needs some quiet time until after the presidential elections.

    November 14, 2011 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  6. agathokles

    Watch video of this. Unbelievable! And to think a significant number of Republicans want him as their President. Ridiculous! Doesn't the man ever read a newspaper? Or watch TV news? He has study up to know what the US did in Libya????

    November 14, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  7. John

    I'm never impressed with new Politicians familiarity with foreign matters. But ask many people on the street about foreign or even domestic question and not many can answer them correctly. People are not as tuned it as they should be. I would think Cain would familiarize himself with at the very least current events. You know reporters are going to ask about them. I think Cain has two strikes against him. One more and I think he is out!

    November 14, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  8. Robert (Atlanta)

    Sometimes pauses indicate "gathering one's thoughts" – but this pause was not that. Rather, this pause and the tortured attempt at a reply indicated ignorance on one of the most pivotal events in the Middle East in recent decades. OK, so maybe he couldn't dig into the details, but he could have at least communicated that he knew what President Obama's role had been – pretty much anyone who has seen the news has at least an idea!

    Yet another indication that Cain is in no way ready to be the Commander-in-Chief of this country...Uz-beki-beki-beki-stan maybe, but not this country.

    November 14, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  9. Scott

    Are you asking if I agree with President Obama? Because, if so, I know the answer! No!
    LOL – This guy has done the impossible – he makes Perry seem intelligent.

    November 14, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  10. AirForce Vet

    This man is probably a very good businessman, but he does not have a clue about foreign policy and that's an important thing to know to be POTUS.

    November 14, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  11. Smitty77

    It would seem that some or our Presidential hopefuls are lacking in important areas that office would entail!!

    November 14, 2011 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  12. GaryB

    He looked like he was trying very hard to remember the conservative talk radio talking points against Obama's actions in Libya. Problem is, those have changed so often (every time Obama and the U.S. were successful, they had to come up with a new thing to complain about) he couldn't remember the latest talking point.

    November 14, 2011 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  13. tcaros

    Quick to disagree with a good man, but long to remember why.

    November 14, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  14. Amazing

    His response sounds like a true problem solver!

    November 14, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  15. Keith, US Citizen living in Canada

    A Perry moment??

    November 14, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  16. Jasmine

    This guy is one big hot mess. Now I just want to know if we are talking about the same thing because you might be talking about something that I don't know nothin' about. So I have to wing an answer and I want to be able to say that I answered something you didn't ask so I can blame the mainstream media for asking something I didn't answer.

    November 14, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  17. hmmm....

    why did we not get just such reporting on the current president when he was running. This may have given us all information to determine if he was ready or not too. Why now? Why this person? I am happy it is happening but why not then?

    November 14, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  18. Larry L

    His handlers did not warn him about this question. For a Republican to admit that President handled this situation masterfully would be against the entire obstructionist mentality of the GOP. Couple that with Cain's amazing lack of knowledge regarding world affairs and it's easy to see why he couldn't answer the question.

    Republicans can't just run against the President, even if they really did a great job of blocking any progress toward helping the American people. They'll need to offer something beyond gifts to the rich for their economic policy and ideas about dismantling our federal government. So far the Republican plan looks like something one would design to turn America into Mexico – where the top 1% lives large while everybody else lives day-to-day.

    November 14, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  19. david

    Why would this surprise anyone? My child has as much experience in Foreign Relations as this man. And yet...there are people who support him for the office of POTUS. Wow...

    November 14, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  20. twiddly

    wow, almost as eloquent as Palin!

    November 14, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  21. jb

    Geez, any fool that read the news or watched tv once or twice a week would have been able to answer the question.
    Just shows this guy would be a disaster at running a whole country, especially one that is supposed to be the world's leading promoter of democracy.

    November 14, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  22. Phillydan

    Good grief, Herman Cain absolutely has no qualifications to be the President of the U.S. Maybe a Pizza Hut but that is about the extent of it. Anyone of us following the Libya story would have come up with a better response than him pausing and asking them to repeat the question.

    November 14, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  23. cindy

    Apparently this man never reads a newspaper. He didn't know China had nukes. I know more about Libya than he does. And this man goes around threatening other countries. He is going to torture captives. Whose children will have to die to pay for all his blunders?

    November 14, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  24. Bob T

    And this is a man running for President of the United States!

    November 14, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  25. Brian

    Yes a pause....and an inane answer

    November 14, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
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