Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain struggled to answer a question about U.S. foreign policy toward Libya in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board Monday.
"Okay, Libya," said Cain, glancing up. "President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of [Muammar] Gaddafi. Just wanted to make sure we're talking about the same thing before I say, 'Yes, I agreed. No, I didn't agree,'" said Cain.
"I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason," Cain started, before cutting himself off. "Nope, that's a different one." Cain shifted in his chair, adjusted his jacket and looked up again.
"I got all this stuff twirling around in my head," he added.
Cain repeated he would have "assessed the [Libyan] opposition differently," speaking in generalities about his problem-solving approach.
Cain raised broader questions about the nature of the Libyan opposition. "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."
"And you don't think they were assessed?" asked an editorial board member.
"I don't know that they were or were not assessed. I didn't see reports of that assessment," Cain responded.
Cain has made multiple foreign policy gaffes in his campaign. Earlier this month, he warned China was "trying to develop a nuclear capability," though the country tested a nuclear device in October 1964. When asked whether he was prepared to answer "gotcha" questions in October, he said, "When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm going to say, you know, 'I don't know. Do you know?'" Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai later joked about the exchange.
In the editorial board interview, Cain also expressed support for collective bargaining rights and suggested that Ohio Gov. John Kasich went too far in trying to strip public employees of those rights.
This stumble is just the latest to roil the GOP primary. At a debate last week, Cain's rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was unable to remember the three federal agencies he would cut as president. After naming two, Perry took nearly a minute to regain his bearings before conceding, "I can't think of the third one. I can't. Sorry. Oops." He later clarified that he had been thinking of the Department of Energy.
The Cain campaign tried to downplay the clip later in the day.
"The video is being taken out of context," Cain spokesman JD Gordon said, according to MSNBC. "He was taking questions for about 30 to 40 minutes on four hours of sleep. He didn't say anything wrong or inaccurate; it just took him a while to recall the specifics of Libya."
Gordon added, "It just took him a while to gain his bearings."
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