Herman Cain should do himself and the Republican Party a favor and drop out of the presidential race -- but not for the reasons you think.
The 1990s-era sexual harassment allegations and Ginger White's claim of a 13-year affair are repulsive, but they are not the real story. The real story is that Cain is neither prepared nor qualified to be president, and it is for that reason and no other that he needs to reassess his campaign and get out of the race.
No one denies that Cain is a talented businessman, but he isn't right for a job that requires unimpeachable expertise in areas beyond business strategy and fiscal policy.
Herman Cain was never a credible candidate for president of the United States, because he does not have the background or the knowledge to be a credible candidate, Whit Ayres, a Republican political strategist, told the International Business Times when asked whether the affair allegations would ruin Cain's credibility.
Throughout his campaign, Cain has demonstrated an astonishing ignorance of American foreign policy and basic international affairs. Consider just a few examples:
- They [China] have indicated that they're trying to develop nuclear capability.
Actually, China has had nuclear capability since 1964, and today it has 240 warheads in its nuclear stockpile. It is one of five nuclear powers, along with the United States, Russia, Britain and France, named in the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
- I think we already recognize their [Taiwan's] democratically elected government.
No, we don't. In 1972, when President Richard Nixon negotiated the normalization of relations between the United States and China, the Shanghai Communique stated, The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States government does not challenge that position. The U.S. officially stopped recognizing Taiwan in 1979 and has not sent an ambassador to Taiwan since then.
- Wet foot, dry foot policy? ... Gotta run, gentlemen.
Cain dodged a reporter's question about the United States' wet foot, dry foot policy, which says that Cuban refugees found at sea will be sent home, but refugees who reach land can apply for legal residency after a year. In fact, he dodged the same question twice, making it obvious that he had no knowledge of the policy: a cornerstone of the United States' relationship with Cuba. Violations of the wet foot, dry foot policy -- for example, the Elian Gonzalez case -- have major implications for U.S.-Cuba relations, so the president had better know what it is.
- The right of return? The right of return?
The right of return -- a term Cain was clearly unfamiliar with in an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace -- refers to the idea that Palestinians are entitled to return to the land they occupied before the creation of Israel in 1948. Asked whether he believed in the right of return, Cain froze for a moment and then dodged by saying, That's something that should be negotiated. This is a crucial issue in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and most supporters of the Israeli government do not believe Palestinians have a right to return to Israeli land. Rather, they believe Palestinians should only be allowed to return if Israel agrees to that in a peace settlement.
- If you look at the topography of Iran, where are you going to strike? It's very mountainous. That's what makes it very difficult.
This is an incredibly simplistic view of what would make it very difficult to thwart Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program through military action. Yes, the country is mountainous, and that would complicate things, but the real arguments against a military strike lie elsewhere: namely, in the fear that a strike could antagonize Iran while failing to eliminate its nuclear capabilities. But Cain doesn't mention that -- he just talks about topography.
- President Obama supported the uprising, correct?
No, he joined the NATO bombing campaign against Libya because he wanted Moammar Qadhafi to stay in power. Come on, you can't take a position on the United States' policies toward Libya if you don't even know that President Obama supported the rebels. And the position that followed this question, if you can call it a statement, was rambling and almost incoherent.
- I'm not sure what you mean by 'neoconservative.'
Has he not picked up a newspaper in the past 10 years? Given that Cain has expressed support for neoconservative principles -- mainly nation-building through economic sanctions or military force, as seen in the Iraq War -- it is startling that he doesn't know the term. He even cited former U.N. ambassador John Bolton as a writer he admires, and Bolton is one of the most well-known neoconservatives. But apparently, he is only familiar with the conservative movement.
- When they ask me, 'Who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan?' I'm going to say, 'You know, I don't know. Do you know?' Knowing who is the head of some of these small, insignificant states around the world -- I don't think that is something that is critical to focusing on national security and getting this economy going.
Gotcha questions are dumb, but Uzbekistan isn't a small, insignificant state. When it comes to U.S. interests in the Middle East, it is actually a very important player. Right now, the Obama administration is negotiating with the Uzbek government to create a corridor through Uzbekistan that would provide an alternative to supply routes through Pakistan, which have long kept us dependent on Pakistan and prevented us from combating its aid to terrorists as strongly as we want to.
What makes Cain's statement egregious is not the assertion that he doesn't need to know the names of insignificant world leaders -- that is probably true, although the cavalier attitude doesn't exactly inspire confidence -- but the fact that he doesn't know who is significant and who isn't. I wouldn't blame him for not knowing the current president of Chechnya like candidate Bush 11 years ago, Joshua Foust, a PBS reporter stationed in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, wrote recently. But if Cain is to argue that some countries aren't important to America -- a sensible thing -- he should at least figure out which countries are important. Uzbekistan is surely one of them.
That isn't a gotcha question. It is an are you qualified to be president question, and Cain has shown time and time again that he is not.
- I'm not supposed to know anything about foreign policy. ... I want to talk to commanders on the ground. Because you run for president, [people say] you need to have the answer. No, you don't! No, you don't! That's not good decision-making.
This is the most egregious statement of all, because it shows that Cain doesn't just lack an understanding of foreign policy -- he also lacks any sense that he should understand foreign policy.
Does the president need to know every tactical detail of every operation and every regime in every corner of the world? No, but he or she does need to have a fundamental grasp of the relationships between countries and what the major ongoing foreign policy issues are.
Commanders on the ground may be the best equipped to evaluate localized actions -- for instance, withdrawing troops from Iraq, changing strategies in Afghanistan or working with the Pakistani government to eliminate safe havens for the Taliban -- but the president needs to understand what he is told, and it is his job to see the implications of localized actions in the context of a comprehensive foreign policy.
Frankly, there is no such thing as localized foreign policy. Pakistan influences Afghanistan; our presence in Iraq influences not just Iraq but nearby countries like Iran and Syria; our relationship with China affects our relationship with Japan. Commanders and local officials can account for these influences to some extent, depending on their positions and the breadth of their knowledge, but it is absurd to assume that they will know everything and claim that it's OK for the president to know nothing.
At no point in his campaign has Cain shown any respect for the scope of the president's job. Being the president of the United States is not like being a CEO. The president needs a lot more than good management skills and business acumen, but Cain seems completely unconcerned by that.
When he ventures outside his comfort zone and it doesn't go well -- see: his botched foreign policy responses and his poorly articulated positions on abortion -- he just slinks back in and starts talking about his 9-9-9 tax plan again. His strategy for dealing with the gaps in his knowledge is not to deal with them, and that is shameful for someone who claims to be a leader.
That, not who he may or may not have had sex with, is why Cain should drop out of the presidential race.