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. nintex

    This did not look good for a presidential candidate. Almost, but not quite, as bad as Perry's goof last week. I think they're going down pretty fast.

    November 14, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  2. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    He doesn't want to look like he agrees with Obama at all. If he does, then he could be seen as being like Obama. That could be a problem when it comes to a primary or caucsus.

    November 14, 2011 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  3. Peter

    See folks, there's more to being President than managing money.

    November 14, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  4. marinedad05

    "(I've) got all this stuff twirling around in my head."

    What things? Cobwebs?

    Jeez, this is a presidential candidate?

    November 14, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  5. zeigfeldf

    He couldn't find Libya on a map and he wants to be president. Ha.

    November 14, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  6. marty rogers

    the irony here is that the reason he stumbled so bad is because he couldnt find anything wrong with the way Obama handled Libya and couldnt bring himself to admit it.

    November 14, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  7. Scottc

    I think Cain and Perry should play Beat the Clock! Now That is Must See TV!

    November 14, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  8. Will Turner

    What can we say here folks.... It speaks for itself...

    November 14, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  9. RINO Bil

    As a businessman? Sometimes the President must act without all the information he would like to have. If elected, what's Cain going to do, hem and haw while missles might be heading our way?

    We need LEADERS, not business men.

    November 14, 2011 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  10. Are you serious

    He didn't know about Libya??? What, was it such a small part of the political scene that he didn't know we were over there? Hasn't he gotten the GOP talking points memorized after six months???

    November 14, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  11. Judas

    After all of these months on the campaign trail it appears that Mr. Cain hasn’t bothered to pick up a newspaper, magazine or a book, and has yet to discover that new fangled technology called the internet. It seems his entire campaign staff has failed miserably in their duty to brief him on topics that are not only known and understood by most high school freshman, but are very relevant for a person that’s seeking the office of POTUS. However, with one or two exceptions, being uninformed and blindly ignorant of the world that exists outside of their own myopic bubble seems to be the one common thread among the majority on this ship of fools, so he has plenty of company.

    November 14, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  12. Nash

    How would this guy have enough information to debate Obama on foreign policy if he has no opinion on how Obama handled Libya? Is this a joke? This is what Republicans are offering to potentially be the next President? I am really glad his fifteen minutes are up. He is a disgrace to business-politician wannabes.

    November 14, 2011 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  13. one voice

    This guy truly needs to go back to selling pizza.

    November 14, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  14. LegendRx

    Like Palin and the "midnight ride of Paul Revere", Cain and "what did Obama do in respect to Libya" response, I was embarrassed for the both of them as well as the republican party candidate line up. I lower my head and moved it from side to side, I feel really bad for the right conservative party . . . what happened to you guys. The republican leadership, without thinking, bash and disagree with Obama executive decisions for no other reason but to make him a one term president. And Herman Cain is a clear example of empty criticizing coming from the right.

    November 14, 2011 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  15. Marty

    This is summed up with the phrase " the GOP contender explained that he would need to know more" .... Yep, the man dosent know enough about how the world works. This is not the land of talk radio or pizza, this is the real world. He is not ready for prime time.

    November 14, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  16. sqeptiq

    Not ready for prime time player. That video was PAINFUL.

    November 14, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  17. TJeff1776

    His greatest maximum was for VP; now thats faded. He needs to pull a 2008 Romney and. not unlike Bachmann, save
    his money for 2016. Those accusing ladies have his el braino rattled. As for tha ladies- too many Herman. Too many. May I please offer a simple solution- RUN, don't walk, to the nearest exit.

    November 14, 2011 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  18. Oldie in TampaBay

    Herman! Herman! You have NO knowledge of the goings on in the World ... you really ARE NOT QUALIFIED to be POTUS! Libya? where's Libya?
    You had a good run ... but the truth keeps catching up to you ... pack it in! Time to head for home!

    November 14, 2011 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  19. minority

    3 strikes and you're out..

    November 14, 2011 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  20. Rajeev G

    He is the same candidate who did not that Chinese had nuclear bombs since 1960s. Wow! What an ignorant fool and he wants to be the Commander in Chief. Libya did not happen a long time ago. It just happened. Mr. Cain... An advice for you.. Please read newspapers. Does anyone in GOP read newspapers (blink blink Palin...)

    November 14, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  21. ric

    I recall a time in the past when you could ask a presidential candidate anything and they straighforward answers.

    November 14, 2011 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  22. Freddy

    This guy actually makes Palin look good!!

    November 14, 2011 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  23. A R

    Can someone please inform Mr. Cain that the commander in chief often has to make tough choices without knowing all the information? It's amazing that people claim to be "strong" on National Defense and also want this guy as President.

    November 14, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  24. Melo-D

    Maybe Herman should pause his campaign, permanently.

    November 14, 2011 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  25. Vijay

    Did anyone in his right mind expect Mr. Cain to comprehend the politics and war in Libiya and the U.S. involvement in it? I am no fan of his philosophy or his style. But give him time to learn the tricks of the campaign trade. I am sure he will learn enough to at least get a passing grade pretty quickly.

    November 14, 2011 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
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