Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Herman Cain Flunks Foreign Policy

By Alan Caruba

It can be argued that domestic affairs are a president’s top priority, but the Constitution expressly puts the chief executive in charge of setting and conducting foreign affairs. It is therefore essential to know if the candidate who wants to be president has a reasonable knowledge of events around the world.

On Tuesday evening I watched an edition of Fox News Bret Beir’s Special Report where Herman Cain was “center chair” as the usual members of the panel got a chance to quiz him and, after he attempted to dispose of the charges of sexual harassment unleashed against him, syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer asked a question that dealt with foreign policy.

What would Cain do if Iran was going to unleash an attack on the U.S.? Cain gave a rambling, unspecific answer except to say he’d order an Aegis destroyer into the Persian Gulf to let Iran know he was serious, mentioning something about the use by Iran of missiles. It was distressingly clear that Cain had no more idea what he would do than he had regarding other potential foreign policy questions.

Foreign affairs are Herman Cain’s Achilles’ heel and it has not gone unnoticed by the political press and others. In the October 17 Washington Post, Chris Cillizza took note of Cain’s appearance on “Meet the Press” where he was asked “whether Iran’s involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. amounted to an act of war.”

Cain replied, “After I looked at all of the information provided by the intelligence community, the military, than I could make that decision.” That is what is known as a lawyerly response. “If, if it’s an act of war, and the evidence suggests that, than I am going to consult with my advisors and say, ‘What are our options”’”

If Barack Obama’s extremely muted response is any indication, there aren’t that many overt options, though one might hope that there are a host of covert ones in the works.

During a PBS interview with Judy Woodruff, Cain was asked about China as a potential military threat to the U.S. At one point Cain said, “They’ve indicated that they’re trying they’re trying to develop nuclear capability…” China conducted its first text of a nuclear device on October 16, 1964. It is estimated to have some 400 nuclear weapons. They are not “developing” a nuclear threat. They are a nuclear threat in the same way as other nations with nuclear weapons. This is why Iran is hell-bent on acquiring its own nuclear weapons.

A man no one could accuse of being anything but conservative, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, had Cain on his program and, in a segment with Dennis Miller, the show’s comic relief, O’Reilly said, “Look, I like Herman Cain. I like his spirit. I think he presents himself very well. But when he came on The Factor a few weeks ago, he had no clue about foreign affairs.”

Cain lacks a good poker face. When asked questions for which he is unprepared, his eyes begin to blink like a deranged traffic light. He responds with some programmed answer that is often unrelated to the question. He is the proverbial deer in the headlights.

During a recent speech to a Republican audience, he said that so far as he’s concerned, America is Israel’s ally and vice versa. That got the predictable applause. Cain visited Israel in August on a fact-finding tour. He met with a deputy prime minister and the Mayor of Jerusalem.

However, when he was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, he was asked about the Palestinian demand of “right of return”, a major divide between Israelis and Palestinians, and Cain had no idea what it was. “That’s something that should be negotiated,” said Cain, grasping for an answer that sounded sensible, but the issue is not negotiable so far as the Israelis are concerned and with good reason. Someone even casually aware of the issues affecting Israel would know that.

Stephen Yates, president of the DC Advisory and former national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, might not be expected to criticize a GOP candidate, but when asked he said of Cain, “These are the kind of questions a leading candidate cannot simply pass to advisors. To date, Cain has not projected command of these presidential imperatives.”

A pizza company executive or one leading a restaurant trade association probably doesn’t need to know much about foreign affairs, but a candidate for President of the United States needs to know more than some hasty daily briefings by his campaign staffers.

Cain dismissed the fact he had no idea where Uzbekistan is or its strategic importance to U.S. foreign affairs. “When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know?” Even Obama knows that a stable relationship with Uzbekistan is regarded as of vital importance to the war in Afghanistan for its airport and as a transit corridor to reduce dependence on Pakistan.

Cain thinks foreign affairs questions are “gotcha” questions, but they may well be the most critical questions a potential president has to understand and answer. It is testimony to the difficulty of these issues that Barack Obama has essentially carried out most of the policies put in place by George W. Bush when it comes to foreign affairs.

Right now Herman Cain is the candidate-de-jour in the polls, but so was Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry when he got into the race. I like the fact that Cain is a bona fide conservative. I don’t like the obvious fact that he couldn’t find Uzbekistan on the map and probably doesn’t know much else about the world.

On that count alone, I would not vote for him. Republicans have to get over their current love affair with Herman Cain and select a candidate more qualified to lead the nation.

© Alan Caruba, 2011


TexasFred said...

I could not agree more, Cain is a babe in the woods where foreign policy is concerned, and I have to say, Cain will likely get one too many policy questions and then throw The Race Card...

He's already done it regarding the sexual harassment charges... This guy is a walking disaster looking for a place to happen...

But I have heard it said, he makes a good pizza...

Timmeehh said...

"China conducted its first text of a nuclear device on October 16, 1994."

I believe that is a typo, it should read 1964.

Alan Caruba said...

You're right! It was error. Thanks for catching it.

Ronbo said...

Clearly I'm the best Republican to be president.

If elected I promise to arrest the leadership of the Democrat Party, end all socialist programs, fire 90% of the federal bureaucracy, kill the federal income tax and bomb Iran back to the 12th century!

Please write in "RONBO" on your ballot in November 2012 :-)

Alan Caruba said...

Ronbo, the minute I announce my availability as a write-in candidate, you try to cut in line!

Alan C.

Will Harmon said...

@ Alan: "Republicans have to get over their current love affair with Herman Cain and select a candidate more qualified to lead the nation".

Couldn't agree more, but WHO? Knowledge of foreign affairs is significant as you point out, but that qualification rules out about all the current GOP candidates including Perry and Bachman who are as clueless on foreign affairs as Cain and Palin.

Gingrich is far and away the strongest in the pack on foreign affairs. Santorum may pass muster. If either of them go up against Obama, we lose...too much baggage. That leaves us Romney, another McCain RINO.

I agree with Limbaugh, "ANY republican candidate would serve the nation better than Obama has. No matter which room Obama walks into, he is the least qualified person in the room". Obama needs to go and I could settle for even the weakest of the Republican candidates who is able to beat the loser currently occupying the White House.

I don't disagree with you, Alan, that a presidential candidate needs some understanding of the basics like where countries are located on a map. But to some extent, Cain is correct. A CEO gets paid to be a visionary and make strategic decisions, not to be the expert on every subject that comes up. Consequently he surrounds himself with people a lot smarter than he is on a wide variety of subjects, takes their facts and advice, and makes a decision. If a President needs an expert on foreign affairs, he can always hire a Henry Kissinger type.

Alan Caruba said...

@Will: At this point I will take any Republican candidate with a pulse! :-)

Dean Yale said...

If Cain becomes the next president, that will make two in a row that get a D- in foreign policy 101.

Cain has plenty of time to brush up on foreign policy. I believe he has the intelligence to become informed on the world situation, and to make competent decisions in the best interest of the citizens of America.

Considering the field of candidates running for the Republican nomination, Cain is the pick of the litter for me.

Ir'Rational said...

Cain is weak on foreign policy. Before nomination.
One BHusseinO was weak before, during and after. Positively grovelling, after.
I don't care whom. One-term Barry. Please.

Ir'Rational said...

@Will. (&, tangentially, @Alan)
Provided it's not Huntsman.
Forget RINO. Make it D.

the Tunnel Dweller said...

As much as we like Herman Cain as a man, we must not do exactly as liberals did in 2008 with Obama. We must not let our support for Cain make us set him up for failure by placing him in a position he is not yet remotely qualified to handle.
American leadership in foreign policy has lost much respect among our allies. President Bush may have been disliked by some but respected by many. However Clinton and Obama were and are disrespected, being considered amateurs overseas; I fear Herman Cain will be as well.
Mr. Caruba brings up an issue that is of more concern to me than Cain's present difficulties; if he were a Democrat, all the current news would be a resume' enhancement (provided Cain was arrogant enough about the whole thing).

Guy in Ohio said...

A good businessman knows how to surround himself with good advisers and delegate authority. I have no reason to believe that Cain would be any worse at doing that than any of the other candidates. I'd vote for Donald Duck before I gave Obama four more years to destroy this country ...

the Tunnel Dweller said...

Guy in Ohio makes an excellent point.

Shelley said...

What all of the candidates are failing to address in "foreign" policy is the invasion into the US over our southern border. We in Arizona see it! Citizens are not to enter lands from the southern border to 125 miles NORTH because it is too dangerous and has been taken over by the drug cartels. We essentially have lost this land to foreign invaders. Signs were posted by DHS and when Gingrich was asked about this he was totally unaware of it!

We in Arizona are tired of the talk of securing the southern border from Rinos and Gingrich, Perry & Romney are more of the same. Bachmann bailed on a visit to the border at the last minute so that would indicate how she stands. They will do what has always been done and keep the border open.

I'd prefer someone like Cain, who may not know it all know, but is willing to learn and is while he is campaigning and is willing to stand up for America and our allies than the Rinos of the past who will sell us out! I usually agree with you but this time I don't.

Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

Is there anyway we could surgically merge cCain with John Bolton?

croeiii said...

I too, like Shelly, live on the southern border. In my case it's the southern tip of Texas. Just this week a local deputy was shot by a Mexican cartel member, another member was arrested at his home on this side of the border, and a cartel leader turned himself in to authorities to save his own skin when threatened by a rival cartel. Cartel members own property on THIS side of the border so their families will be safe from the violence they have caused in their own country. Bottom line; we are being invaded and the federal government is not doing near enough to stem the tide that threatens to overwhelm us. So far I like Cain's conviction and think he will get the help he needs to make informed decisions on foreign policy. It's what I would do. Dang, I need to go get more ammo.......

cmblake6 said...

Personally, I REALLY like many of Cain's attributes, and believe that he is way more than smart enough to put people in the proper positions that actually know how to deal with those problems. Such as immediately removing Napoleonette and putting in, say, Bolton. Maybe even a declaration that Patriotic Americans should hold the border, for example. Just a suggestion.Put the military in that mentioned zone, with "liberal" (in the true sense) R.O.E.s. Free fire zones.

Alan Caruba said...

@CMBlake5: Whew! Turning the southern border into a free-fire zone is way over the top.