Political Animal


October 17, 2011 8:35 AM ‘Foreign policy dumb’

By Steve Benen

Herman Cain talked to Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Friday, and welcomed questions about his familiarity with international affairs. “I hope they continue to think that I am foreign policy dumb until the right time, they will find out I’m not foreign policy dumb as they think,” he said.

The right time, apparently, wasn’t yesterday’s appearance on “Meet the Press.”

When [host David Gregory] then asked Cain whether he was a “neoconservative,” the presidential hopeful admitted he had no idea what Gregory was talking about.

“I’m not sure what you mean by neoconservative,” said Cain. “I am a conservative, yes. Neoconservative — labels sometimes will put you in a box. I’m very conservative.”

“But you’re familiar with the neoconservative movement?” asked Gregory.

“I’m not familiar with the neoconservative movement,” admitted Cain. “I’m familiar with the conservative movement. Let me define what I mean by the conservative movement — less government, less taxes, more individual responsibility.”

Dan Drezner, after scrutinizing Cain’s collected efforts to address these issues, concluded that the presidential hopeful “hasn’t the faintest clue what to do when it comes to American foreign policy.”

That seems more than fair. I wouldn’t expect Cain, who’s never worked in government at any level and has no background in international affairs, to dazzle audiences with his expertise in international affairs. But he’s now been a presidential candidate for four months, presumably long enough time to, say, read a book about contemporary foreign policy, or at least hire some advisers who could walk him through the basics.

“I’m not familiar with the neoconservative movement”? Seriously? Was Cain not keeping up on current events throughout the Bush/Cheney presidency?

Also note, if this were just one embarrassing exchange on “Meet the Press,” it’d be easier to overlook, but for months, Cain has made clear that he doesn’t understand foreign policy in any way, and arguably doesn’t even think he should. Walid Zafar posted some of Cain’s “greatest hits” in this area, including Cain’s belief that oil drilling might prevent Iran’s nuclear capabilities, his indifference towards strategically important countries like Uzbekistan, and his unfamiliarity with China. A couple of others come to mind, including Cain having no idea what the Palestinian right of return is, and his concession that he can’t speak to U.S. policy in Afghanistan because he doesn’t “know all the facts.”

Foreign Policy’s Joshua Keating added last week, “Rather than fake knowledge about this world, he by and large simply expresses contempt for it.”

I realize the economy is easily the most important issue on the policy landscape, but it’s discouraging that Cain’s ignorance on foreign policy is not an automatic deal-breaker.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on October 17, 2011 8:48 AM:

    Like all of their candidates, Cain's ignorance is an assett.

    How pathetic is the Republican Party?

    And how pathetic are we as a country that we elect these Know-nothing clowns?

  • withay on October 17, 2011 8:54 AM:

    The Huffington Post story about Cain's links to AFP and the Koch Brothers: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/16/herman-cain-koch-brothers-americans-prosperity-2012-gop-campaign_n_1013661.html

    This explains everything about Herman Cain.

  • berttheclock on October 17, 2011 8:59 AM:

    The Koch brothers did not hand pick Herman Cain to run for the presidency because they wanted him to have any foreign policy experience. They did pay him to travel the country giving speeches for their organization, Americans for Progress on social issues. When the Koch brothers are involved in secret petro chemical sales to Iran, why would they want him to muddy any waters by addressing foreign issues? They want him available to sit as their shill at 1600 Avenue to destroy Roe v. Wade, government unions and public schools and lower the taxes which burden the Koch brothers.

  • DAY on October 17, 2011 9:01 AM:

    Any else notice how often he sticks his tongue out when speaking? Nervous tic, or salacious gesture? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • AK Liberal on October 17, 2011 9:06 AM:

    Foreign Policy’s Joshua Keating added last week, “Rather than fake knowledge about this world, he by and large simply expresses contempt for it.”

    Which is enough to make him the Tea Party darling.

  • berttheclock on October 17, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Thanks, withay for the link to the AFP, Koch, Cain connection. I have been, incorrectly, writing Americans for Progress, when, you, correctly, note it is Americans for Prosperity, an organization with tentacles in most states of the Union. Many, probably, have seen their ads on TV without realizing the Koch connection behind the ads. But, DAY, don't all puppets have similar problems?

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 17, 2011 9:17 AM:

    Clearly Cain having even the remotest chance of becoming or being considered for President is all anyone needs to know about American exceptionalism. How big of a dumbass do you have to be to be a Republican?

    The country began it's descent a long time ago and 99% of us have no clue have far we've fallen.

  • stormskies on October 17, 2011 9:26 AM:

    And not to be outdone is the sheer stupidity of it all here is Rick Santorum:

    Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Friday said that eliminating single motherhood would help defeat Democrats at the polling booth, according to the liberal watchdog Right Wing Watch.

    “Look at the political base of the Democratic Party: it is single mothers who run a household,” he said on the American Family Association’s radio show Today’s Issues.

    “Why? Because it’s so tough economically that they look to the government for help and therefore they’re going to vote. So if you want to reduce the Democratic advantage, what you want to do is build two parent families, you eliminate that desire for government.”

  • withay on October 17, 2011 9:30 AM:

    The Huffington Post story has a time of 9:16 pm on October 16. I found it close to the bottom of the headlines on Monday morning. It is now off of the front page of headlines, within an hour of me posting the link. The link still works, but there are a lot of other stories that were on that front page over the weekend that are still there.

  • berttheclock on October 17, 2011 9:50 AM:

    @withay, they may have picked up the excellent work done by ThinkProgress about the connection. One can Google that article.

  • Trollop on October 17, 2011 9:50 AM:

    He simply forgot to say that the neoconservatives are bloodthirsty savages who also have a yellow ribbon side-business.

    Poor "Herb" Cain, folks on his team don't want a black president, did anybody tell him that?

  • POed Lib on October 17, 2011 9:54 AM:

    YOu are criticizing him for not accepting a label? I think that he is 100% correct in this. Let him articulate his policies (which he has not done, except for the idiot's delight plan 9-9-9), and let the commentators put the label on him.

  • biggerbox on October 17, 2011 10:11 AM:

    His ignorance would be a deal-breaker if he were running for the real office of President, but, like many of the GOP candidates, he's running for the fantasy GOP-world version of President. For that purpose, it's a plus, since it allows him to be free of confusing positions and not a know-it-all, both of which are important to the conservative voter.

    It's much easier to understand these GOP candidates if you realize they are all interacting in a Massively Multiplayer Physical-world Role Playing Game.

  • Peter C on October 17, 2011 10:31 AM:

    Republicans don't care about 'governing', they care about 'winning'. They win in order to shove liberals face's in the dust. They vote, not to have more effective government but to have beaten us.

    In a democracy, government exists to serve ends which are essentially 'liberal'; government limits what the rich may do through regulations. It keeps them from polluting through environmental regulations. It keeps them from cheating consumers through trade regulations. It keeps them from harming consumers and employees through health and safety regulations. These regulations limit the freedom of rich people (the core constituency of Republicans) so Republicans hate them.

    So the core of the Republican party (the haves and have-mores) want government only to protect them and their property (here, with justice and police; and abroad, with the biggest military the world has ever known). That's all they want.

    Their lickspittles mostly just want to 'win' so they can feel good about their sad lives.

  • Grumpy on October 17, 2011 10:38 AM:

    "And how pathetic are we as a country that we elect these Know-nothing clowns?"

    Mr. Cain, are you a Know-Nothing?

    I’m not sure what you mean by Know-Nothing. I don't know nothing about no know-nothing. I know nothing except my country, is what I know. I know that.

  • zandru on October 17, 2011 11:27 AM:

    @Peter C: Nice summary of the populist nature of modern democracies! I like the way you point out the true recipients of the "freedom" they're always shouting about.

    For the 1%, the freedom to lie, cheat'n'steal; for others, the freedom to starve in the streets. Fair deal! (?)

  • June on October 17, 2011 2:07 PM:

    The base that the Republican Party is left with, though, likes willful ignorance, big lies, and plain stupidity. Republicans' message to their base is, "why improve yourself, when you can put the blame on liberals - stay stupid, don't waste your time with crap like learnin'.