Herman Cain became badly flustered yesterday when asked to assess President Obama’s policy toward Libya, raising new questions about his command of foreign policy as he lurched over five minutes from awkward pauses to halting attempts to address the issue.
Video of Cain’s appearance yesterday before editors and reporters at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel went viral almost immediately after it was posted online, and drew immediate comparisons to Rick Perry’s recent stumble in a debate when he froze in discussing which federal agencies he would eliminate.
“President Obama supported the uprising, correct?’’ he said. “President Obama called for the removal of Khadafy - just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say ‘Yes, I agree,’ or ‘No, I didn’t agree.’ ’’
Cain said he disagreed with the president’s approach “for the following reasons’’ - then changed course.
Some analysts have grown sharply critical of Cain’s foreign policy pronouncements in debates and interviews, saying he shows a basic lack of understanding of critical regions of the world.
Cain himself has sometimes fed into this, and in yesterday’s interview he said: “Some people want to say, ‘Well, as president, you’re supposed to know everything.’ No you don’t.’’
His comments came after a string of other provocative remarks about foreign policy and related issues.
Those include a statement published yesterday in which Cain suggested that most American Muslims are extremists; a contradictory answer about waterboarding during a Republican presidential primary debate on Saturday; and his statement that if Al Qaeda or another terrorist group demanded, he would consider authorizing the release of every detainee at Guantanamo Bay in return for the release of one US soldier.
J.D. Gordon, Cain’s spokesman and national security adviser, said the candidate had not been at his sharpest in Milwaukee because of a lack of sleep amid a long day of traveling.
NEW YORK TIMES
Cantor silent on proposal for $300b tax increase
WASHINGTON - Sidestepping controversy, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, declined to take sides yesterday on a proposal for higher taxes backed by fellow Republicans on Congress’s supercommittee, yet expressed confidence the panel would agree on a deficit-reduction plan of at least $1.2 trillion by a Nov. 23 deadline.
A proposal for $300 billion in higher revenues has stirred grumbling within the ranks of congressional Republicans, for whom opposition to such measures has been political bedrock for more than two decades.
One prominent conservative, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, said in a published commentary that “our economy will have an even tougher time catching its balance if Washington’’ raises taxes.
Separately, officials said that Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania and advocate of the plan, has encountered criticism from fellow conservatives despite strong credentials as an opponent of higher taxes. “There’s been a little bit, but it’s been pretty muted,’’ his spokeswoman, Nachama Soloveichik, said of the response.
Cantor’s spokeswoman turned aside several e-mailed requests for the majority leader’s views on the proposal. She said he hadn’t seen the plan, and she referred to his comments at a news conference earlier in the day when he told reporters, “I’m not going to be opining as to any reports, hypotheticals, or anything connected with their work.’’
Despite that pledge, Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, was bullish in predicting agreement before the deadline and added that a fallback requirement to cut $1.2 trillion from domestic and defense programs wouldn’t be triggered.
The committee has been at work for two months, hoping to succeed at a task that has defied the best efforts of high-ranking political leaders.
Despite intense talks late last week, there has been little indication of progress as age-old political divisions have re-emerged.
The principal stumbling blocks revolve around taxes on the one hand, and the large federal programs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security on the other.
Bialek’s ex-boyfriend says couple met Cain in 1997
SHREVEPORT, La. - The former boyfriend of a woman who accused Republican presidential contender Herman Cain of inappropriate sexual behavior said yesterday that he and his then-girlfriend met the businessman in the late 1990s.
Victor Jay Zuckerman’s account of an evening he, Sharon Bialek, and Cain spent together in 1997 contradicts the candidate’s assertions that he had never met his accuser and did not recognize her name.
“During the National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago, Sharon indeed did meet and spend time with Mr. Cain,’’ Zuckerman said at a news conference, describing a gathering Cain had invited them to in a hotel suite after a National Restaurant Association party in Chicago.
Cain was chief executive of the Washington trade group at the time.
“At that party, Mr. Cain engaged both of us in conversation,’’ Zuckerman said.
Zuckerman spoke as the firestorm around Cain seemed to be subsiding since the first disclosures on Oct. 30 set off a week of wall-to-wall news coverage.
There had not been any new information disclosed in the past week about Cain or the women’s accusations, and plans for a joint news conference by his four accusers seemed increasingly unlikely. Cain’s campaign did not have an immediate response to Zuckerman.
Huntsman says Romney has ‘believability’ issues
WASHINGTON - Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman yesterday suggested that Mitt Romney is a phony who is “pandering’’ to their party’s primary voters.
“When you’ve been on both sides of all the key issues of the day, then that gets to the heart and soul of whether you’ve got believability,’’ Huntsman said of Romney in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
“When the 2012 election cycle, to my mind, is going to be about enhancing and promoting trust in the political system, I don’t think you’re electable under those conditions,’’ said Huntsman, who significantly trails Romney in primary polling. - BLOOMBERG NEWS