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.