Herman Cain struggled to answer a question about President Barack Obama's handling of Libya in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Monday, first asking whether Obama had supported the rebellion against Moammar Gadhafi and then saying that he would have gone about assessing the situation differently, which might have caused us to end up in the same place.
His full answer was:
Libya. President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gadhafi. Just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I say yes, I agree, I know I didn't agree. I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason -- no, that's a different one. I gotta go back to -- got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically, what are you asking me, did I agree or not disagree with on what? ... Here's what I would have -- I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is, and I'm sure that our intelligence people have some of that information. Based upon who made up that opposition -- based upon who made up that opposition, might have caused me to make some different decisions about how we participated. Secondly, no, I did not agree with Gadhafi killing his citizens. Absolutely not. So something would have had to be -- I would have supported many of the things they did in order to help stop that. It's not a simple yes-no, because there are different pieces and I would have gone about assessing the situation differently, which might have caused us to end up in the same place. But where I think more could have been done was, what's the nature of the opposition?
Journal-Sentinel reporter Don Walker wrote that Cain had stumbled in answering the question.
Cain is known for his business experience and his prowess in discussing economic issues. He is at his strongest when he talks about his 9-9-9 plan to overhaul the tax code. But this is not the first time that his foreign policy credentials have been questioned.
For instance, in October, Cain told the Christian Broadcasting Network that he was ready for the gotcha questions of the campaign trail: And 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? And then I'm going to say, how's that going to create one job? ... 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.
The United States is actually in negotiations with Uzbekistan right now to open more military supply routes to Afghanistan.
Later, when he was asked whether he would consider negotiating a prisoner swap with al-Qaida in which the United States would release all the detainees in Guantanamo Bay in exchange for one American prisoner, Cain said he would consider doing that, before reversing himself under fire, saying he misunderstood the question and insisting that he would never negotiate with terrorists.
On another occasion, in discussing relations with China, he said he was concerned about China developing nuclear capability, when in fact China has been a nuclear power since 1964.
And at a Republican candidates' debate in Spartanburg, S.C., on Saturday, when asked whether, as commander in chief, he would feel comfortable overruling American generals, he responded vaguely, Surround yourself with the right people. You will know you're making the right decision when you consider all the facts and ask them for alternatives.
He also hedged when asked whether Pakistan was a friend or foe, answering, We don't know. ... There is a lot of clarity missing.
But in an interview with conservative radio host Michael Savage on Friday, he said he would be more interested in being secretary of defense than vice president.
That could be the one that I could be excited about, he said, characterizing part of the secretary of defense's job as to help the generals and commanders on the ground to get what they need, to do what they do best, and that is kick the you-know-what out of everyone in the world.