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(Photo from the LA Times)

The Republican primary campaign more closely resembles American Idol or X-Factor than a race to see who can effectively lead the free world.  The candidates – and dare I say, the media – are not doing justice to the seriousness of the job they are supposedly competing for.

The winner of the primary (and perhaps the Presidency) doesn’t get a record contract, or a new car, or a million dollars. Instead, he (or she) gets their finger on the button, becomes the commander in chief of the military, guides foreign policy in lands from Libya to Vietnam, and will be tasked with managing a $12 trillion economy.  Sometimes, I don’t think the candidates (or the US media) get this.

Hermain Cain is the latest (from the LA Times) to show his complete ignorance of foreign policy.  No, he wasn’t asked a trick question, such as to name the current leader of Lesotho, he was asked about Libya: the place where America just spent months in active combat:

According to a video posted on the [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's] website, Cain seemed at a loss when the conversation turned to foreign policy, specifically on the Obama administration’s handling of Libya.

After pausing to reflect on a question, Cain asks: “President Obama supported the uprising, correct?”

“Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing,” he says.

He then seems prepared to offer a list of reasons why he disagreed with the administration’s handling of it, before stopping himself.

“Nope, that’s a different one,” he says, apparently having reached for the wrong set of talking points. Shifting uncomfortably in his chair, he confesses: “Got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”

Cain then appeals to the interviewers to more specifically describe what about Obama’s response they wanted him to react to. The question is rephrased, with the point made as well that it was “an issue that’s come up since you’ve been running.”

Cain says he “would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is.”

His bumbling gets worse, and I recommend watching the video here.  Then he concludes with this gem:

Seemingly aware that his response was lacking, Cain returns to a point he has made often in the campaign: that his general approach is to rely on advisors to put the facts in front of him.

“I’m a much more deliberate decision maker,” Cain says. “Some people want to say, ‘Well as president you’re supposed to know everything.’ No you don’t!”

Cain is correct.  The President isn’t supposed to have a firm grasp of every detail of every policy or conflict.  But considering the uprising in Libya has been one of this year’s top stories, and considering America has just played an active role in overthrowing a dictator, one would think he’d be a little more comfortable answering a general question on how Obama handled the conflict? I mean, I can answer this question, and I am a 32 year old Canadian in Hong Kong who isn’t even eligible to run for President if I wanted to.  How can Cain not be able to answer it?

I am not sure when mediocrity became acceptable in candidates for high office.  I would like to know if boards of directors of major companies such as Cisco, Pepsi, Apple, Intel, Halliburton and others would nominate Sarah Palin for CEO, or Michelle Bachmann, or Rick Santorum, or Rick Perry.  Ultimately, the job of being President of the United States of America is a far more consequential and far more demanding job, so why do we give them a pass?  I understand that, at some point, we began looking for candidates who are “like ourselves”.   But most of us aren’t fit to be President, so that’s flawed criteria.

Herman Cain’s flub is already being compared to Rick Perry’s “oops” moment at the GOP debate last week.  Both are similar in that they betray the candidates’ lack of understanding of the issues.  Forgetting a name or date is acceptable, but if a candidate is well versed in the issues, understands them, and has strong positions and convictions, what happened to Perry and Cain simply wouldn’t have happened.

Yes, it is asking a lot for these candidates to be aware of and understand a wide range of issues.  But they are running for President, after all.  If America wants to be (some would say, ‘remain’) exceptional, Americans need to demand excellence from their leaders.

Herman Cain has failed that test.



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  1. manx says:

    It was a NATO lead skirmish in Libya, and it was going to be over in days not weeks. Ahhh sure mister B.O. And how did America become to have 57 states. He should go back to community organizing. Cain is one of the 99 percenters that have no clue what was happening in Libya. B.O. couldn’t find Lesotho on a map.

  2. manx says:

    You didn’t mention Newt. Does that mean he is your man.