The Corner

Cain’s Confusing Libya Answer

Video of Herman Cain discussing Libya with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

UPDATE: “The video is being taken out of context. He was taking questions for about 30 to 40 minutes on four hours of sleep. He didn’t say anything wrong or in accurate; it just took him a while to recall the specifics of Libya. It just took him a while to gain his bearings,” Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told NBC News.

Transcript of conversation (a few edits for clarity’s sake):

Cain: Okay, Libya. … President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Qaddafi. Just wanted to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say yes, I agree, or no, 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, see … got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically, what are you asking me that I agree or … disagree with Obama?

JS: I was asking if you agree. Craig was asking you about the Bush foreign policy, so I was taking a specific example from the Obama administration that was controversial within his own administration on what he should have done or not done. And I was wondering if you agreed with what he did or if you would have responded differently.  It’s an issue that’s come up since you’ve been running for office, and I was wondering how you would have handled it.

Cain: I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is. And I’m sure that our intelligence people had some of that information. Based upon who made up that opposition, okay? … might have caused me to make some different decisions about how we participated. Secondly, no, I did not agree with Qaddafi killing his citizens. Absolutely not. So something would have had to be — I would have supported many of the things that 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 at the same place, but where I think more could have been done, was what’s the nature of the opposition?


JS. So you would have sent ground troops?

Cain: No … I would have done a better job of assessing the situation relative to the opposition first before I made decisions about what we would do.

JS: Many Republicans supported, congratulated him for how he handled that. You would not have been among that group?

Cain: I’m not criticizing him. I’m just saying I don’t think enough was done relative to assessing the situation before everything, you know, exploded. That’s what I’m saying. I’m a much more deliberate problem — decision maker, there’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 in having in all the information as much of it as I possibly can, rather than making a decision or making a statement about whether I totally agreed [or] didn’t agree, when I wasn’t privy to the entire situation. There might be some things there that might have caused me to feel differently. So I’m not trying to hedge on the questions. It’s just that, that’s my nature as a businessman. I need to know the facts as much as possible. I need to hear all of the alternatives.  For example …  you might have mentioned that even within the administration there were different views. I would want to hear all those views, look at all the information, and then I make the decision as the commander in chief. So this is the only point I’m trying to make.

JS: So I’m not clear then. What was the parts that you [were] criticizing the president for, for how he handled it?

Cain: Okay, the opposition that wanted to overthrow Qaddafi. Who are they? How organized are they? How strong are they? Who would be the apparent leader? Now that they have succeeded, did they have a plan for how they were going to govern? Or are you going to end up now with a country in complete chaos? This is what I mean by –

JS: Sorry, but if they didn’t have that, then would you back off and not have gotten us involved?

Cain: It would depend upon which part they didn’t have.  What I’m saying is, it’s not a clear yes, no answer, because all of those things, I think, should have been assessed. That’s what I’m saying.

JS: And you don’t think they were assessed?

Cain: I don’t know that they were or were not assessed. I didn’t see reports of that assessment.

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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