Businessman Herman Cain defended his answer about Libya to a newspaper editorial board as he campaigned in Iowa, where voting for the Republican presidential nomination will begin Jan. 3.
A day after he gave an answer that began with several long pauses, Cain told reporters he was simply trying to be measured in his remarks about the U.S. role in Libya.
“Being in a room where you’re being asked question after question on different topic after different topic, I paused,” he told reporters outside a restaurant in Urbandale, Iowa. “And I don’t understand why that pause created so much quote-unquote controversy.”
Cain, 65, said he would have owned up to it if he had made a mistake. He met with reporters after filming a campaign commercial inside the Machine Shed Restaurant.
“I have never not taken responsibility for what some people perceive as mishaps, missteps or whatever the case may be,” he said. “I paused to gather my thoughts. In any other instance where I may have said something that may have been misinterpreted, I have always corrected myself.”
Cain was making his first trip to Iowa since allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed four women in the 1990s. He has denied the claims.
A Bloomberg News poll released today showed him among the favorites of Iowans likely to attend the caucuses, along with U.S. Representative Ron Paul, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. All four were at or near 20 percent in the poll.
“The closeness of the candidates in that poll says many Iowans are still making up their minds,” Cain said when asked about the poll results.
The poll showed that 60 percent of likely caucus participants could still be persuaded to change their minds and 10 percent are completely undecided.
In a Nov. 14 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board, Cain hesitated when asked about Libya policy, saying he would have done a better job than President Barack Obama of “determining who the opposition is.” He also said that, while he would have assessed the situation differently, it “might have caused us to end up in the same place.”
‘Twirling’ in His Head
Cain told the editorial board that he had “all this stuff twirling around in my head.”
In Iowa, Cain said fatigue played a role in what might have appeared as confusion.
“When you have the kind of aggressive schedule that I have, yes, you can get tired,” he said. Caution also played a role in his response, Cain said.
“If you’re being asked seven or eight different questions on seven or eight different topics and then all of a sudden somebody switches to Libya and they’re not clear on the question, before I shoot from the lip, I gather my thoughts,” he said.
Asked whether he has enough understanding of global politics to be president, Cain said he did.
“I also know how to talk to the right people” so that “when I am asked to make an informed judgment, I will be informed,” he said.
As he met with voters inside the restaurant, Cain joked about the matter. “I can’t remember some things instantaneously like Libya,” he told one person.
Another voter asked Cain whether he supported legalizing marijuana for medical use.
“I see it as a state’s rights issue,” he said. “If states want to legalize medical marijuana, I think that’s a state’s rights issue.”
Earlier in the day, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who needs a strong Iowa showing to resurrect his presidential campaign, used a speech in the state to call for a streamlined federal government, term limits for federal judges and a “part-time” Congress with smaller pay and office budgets.
“It’s time to tear down the monuments to bureaucratic failure, and put in place a smaller, more efficient federal government that puts the American people first,” Perry said on the factory floor of Schebler Co., a manufacturing company in Bettendorf, Iowa.
The Texas governor presented the proposals during his first visit to Iowa since a debate stumble in Michigan when he was unable to recall the name of one of the three federal agencies he wants to eliminate, an incident he called embarrassing.
In the Bloomberg poll, Perry received support from 7 percent of likely caucus-goers in Iowa. He declined to comment on the poll’s findings, which put him in a distant fifth place in the state.
Perry said term limits for federal judges are needed because too many are legislating from the bench. Setting term limits for federal judges would require a constitutional amendment.
Perry called for sending members of Congress “home to live under the laws they pass among the people they represent.”
Under his presidency, Perry said there would be “no more bailouts of bankers, no more earmarks for pet projects, and no more spending beyond our means.”
After his speech, Perry took questions from potential Iowa caucus participants and was joined on stage by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a former U.S. senator who campaigned for president in Iowa in 2007 before dropping out of the race. Brownback has endorsed Perry’s presidential bid.
--Editors: Laurie Asseo, Jim Rubin.
To contact the reporter on this story: John McCormick in Urbandale, Iowa, at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at email@example.com
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