Presidential candidate Herman Cain struggled Monday to formulate a response to President Barack Obama’s handling of the Libyan uprising during an interview with a Wisconsin paper, possibly revealing a continuing serious disconnect in foreign policy matters.
When asked “so you agree with President Obama on Libya or not?” in a videotaped interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Cain responded with a painfully long pause during which he writhed in his chair and started to reply but then abruptly stopped, proclaiming “Nope, that’s a different one.”
He also asked the interviewer, “President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of [Muammar] Gaddafi. Just wanted to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I say, 'Yes, I agreed. No, I didn't agree’.”
He finally gave his response after the question was repeated and clarified.
“I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is and I’m sure some of intelligence people had some of that information. Based on who made up that opposition [that] might have caused me to make some different decisions about how we participated,” Cain responded.
Cain further explained that he, like Obama, did not agree with Gaddafi’s military killing Libyan rebels. Nor did he say he would have put American soldiers on the ground.
He did say that he might have ultimately approved of many of the actions taken by the Obama administration.
However, he answered, “I would have gone about assessing the situation differently.”
Cain’s stumbling answer led at least one foreign policy wonk to criticize him.
Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at Fletcher School of Law and diplomacy professor at Tufts University, previously gave Cain an “F” on his foreign policy responses in the CBS/National Journal debate for a “slow, rambling, evasive and contradictory” performance.
After watching the video of Cain’s answer, he remarked in a Monday night opinion piece for Foreign Policy Magazine that Cain is “willfully ignorant” about foreign policy and the video is “painful to watch.”
In what was likely an explanation for his slow response, Cain stated in his Monday response “I’m a much more deliberate decision-marker, it’s a point that I keep coming back to. Some people want to say ‘Well as president you’re supposed to know everything.’ No you don’t. I believe you got to have all of the information, as much of it as I possibly can, rather than making a decision or making a statement about whether I totally agree or didn’t agree when I wasn’t privy to the entire situation.”
While he did not say a presidential candidate should “know everything,” Peter Brookes, a senior fellow for the foreign policy studies department of The Heritage Foundation, told The Christian Post that he or she should know foreign policy.
“We’re very closely interwoven with world events and what can happen oversees can affect us here,” Brookes said. “A presidential candidate needs to be knowledgeable of foreign policy as well as domestic policy.”
Last month Cain joked about the name of “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” (Uzbekistan) and wrote off knowing the names of such “small insignificant states around the world” during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“I want to focus on the top priorities of this country,” he told CBN.
Brookes told CP global affairs challenge America’s national security.
Brookes said he initially did not agree with the president’s decision to get involved with a primarily European problem. However he believed that the Iranian nuclear program, the rise of China and troop involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq are areas of U.S. concern. Presidential candidates, he said, must able to speak to those issues.
Cain has written off his limited foreign policy knowledge saying that he will hold off on making those kinds of judgments until he has presidential intelligence from advisors and military chiefs.
Brookes said, however, presidential candidates have to be “ready and prepared to assume those duties as commander-in-chief and chief diplomat from day one.”
Cain campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon has tried to downplay the video footage to MSNBC, saying among other things, “The video is being taken out of context.”
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editor Martin Kaiser told CNN, “Trying to spin it and say it was edited or handled some other way is just not accurate."