A five-minute video of Cain’s rambling response to a question posed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board soon rocketed across the blogosphere before being parsed by network television pundits.
“Okay, Libya,” Cain said before rolling his eyes up and pausing to gather his thoughts after being asked if he agreed or disagreed with Obama’s response to the Libyan uprising.
“President Obama supported the uprising. Correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gaddafi. Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, ‘yes, I agreed’ or ‘no, I didn’t agree,'” he said.
“I did not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason – no that’s a different one,” the flummoxed Republican contender continued, adding he’s “got all this stuff twirling around in my head”.
Cain’s inability to answer a direct and relatively simple foreign policy question stunned some pundits, who soon began debating whether it was a more serious gaffe than rival Rick Perry’s “oops” moment at a debate last week, when the Texas governor forgot the third federal department he wanted to shut down.
“Herman Cain-Libya answer might be worse than Rick Perry’s debate moment; Smaller stage but wow,” NBC political reporter Chuck Todd tweeted.
Spiralling sexual scandal
“So are we at the point where you can say, Herman Cain really Rick Perry’d that question,” tweeted Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein.
The gaffe comes as Cain is fighting to keep his campaign on track amid a spiralling sexual harassment scandal.
Cain’s wife Gloria came out in defence of her husband on Monday, telling Fox News that he “totally respects women” and that she does not believe his four accusers.
Asked about the allegations, she said, “that’s not Herman” who would have harassed women, adding, “He would have to have a split personality to do the things that were said”.
Gloria Cain said she believed in her husband’s campaign as well.
“I think he would be a great president,” she told Fox. “I think he would try to make a difference.”
Regarding one accuser, Sharon Bialek, who went public with her allegations, Gloria said, “I totally don’t believe her.”
Monday’s gaffe is a far more serious problem for his campaign, conservative columnist and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin wrote on her blog.
“The real Cain scandal: He can barely form a coherent thought on Libya when put on the spot,” Malkin wrote.
“Tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. But like Rick Perry, Herman Cain is just not ready for prime time.”
The former head of the Godfather’s Pizza chain, who has never before held elected office, had been polling a tight second to win the Republican nomination ever since Perry’s support collapsed in early October following poor debate performances.
But at least one opinion poll on Monday showed Cain sliding in the public’s standing, after two steady weeks of media scrutiny over allegations he sexually harassed various women while at the helm of a Washington, DC trade lobby group during the 1990s.
Cain told the newspaper board that his inability to provide a “yes or no answer” to the newspaper’s editorial board was because he’s a “much more deliberate problem – decision maker”.
“Some people say as president you’re supposed to know everything. No you don’t,” Cain told the editorial board.
“I believe in having all the information, as much of it as I possibly can, rather than making a decision or statement about whether I totally agree or disagree when I wasn’t privy to the situation.
“I’m not trying to hedge on the questions. It’s just that’s my nature as a businessman,” he continued. “I need to know the facts as much as possible. I need to hear all the alternatives.”
When questioned by reporters later on Monday, Cain appeared shocked that the interview was an issue.
“It was a pause. That’s all it was – good grief!” he said.- AFP