James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Campaign 2012 Roundup: Cain Struggles with Libya

by James M. Lindsay
November 15, 2011

Herman Cain speaks during a news conference in Scottsdale. (Joshua Lott/courtesy Reuters)

Herman Cain is catching flak today for the stumbling answer he gave to the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel when asked about Libya. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Politico, and Slate are just a few of the media outlets running stories assessing what the video means for the Cain campaign. Cain dismissed the uproar as “silly” and said that he was “flattered” that his “pauses are so important that somebody wants to make a story out of it.”

Will the video derail Cain’s campaign? Probably not. It’s not as if the former pizza mogul has been positioning himself as the foreign policy candidate in the race. Past presidential candidates have stubbed themselves in similar or worse fashion and survived. Just recall the infamous foreign policy pop quiz that a Boston TV reporter sprung on an unprepared George W. Bush back in 1999. By itself, yesterday’s video is an eye-of-the-beholder event. Cain’s fans will see a candidate operating on very little sleep being very deliberate and careful to avoid being trapped by “gotcha” questions from journalists they presume to be unfriendly. Cain’s critics will see further proof that he is not ready to be commander in chief, but then again, they weren’t likely to vote for him in the first place.

Jon Huntsman spent yesterday at Brookings—an unlikely campaign stop for a GOP presidential candidate. He joked “I come with great trepidation now, hearing that I am the first of the candidates to show up.” Huntsman fielded a question on Mitt Romney’s plan to take a hard line on currency with China. Huntsman again called it “pandering”:

You start slapping on a tariff, and the Chinese are going to turn around and they’re going to say remember the quantitative easing programs part one and part two? You did the same thing, so, here’s a tariff on you guys.

Rick Santorum stopped by Laura Ingraham’s radio show yesterday and called for cooperating with Israel on a possible airstrike against Iran’s nuclear reactors:

I think we’re right to work with Israel to strike those reactors if necessary. And I believe we are at the point where it’s necessary to work with them – just like Israel did with Iraq, just like they did with Syria.

Santorum also defended foreign aid on MSNBC, arguing that it prevents the need for increased spending on military action. He criticized other candidates for “pandering to an anti-foreign aid element out there.”

CNN/Opinion Research Corporation released a poll released yesterday showing that Newt Gingrich is nearly tied with Mitt Romney at the front of the GOP pack. Romney has 24 percent support and Gingrich polls 22 percent. Gingrich has made huge gains in the past month—he is up from 8 percent support in October.

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