WASHINGTON (AP) — Herman Cain suggested Friday that the Taliban were playing a role in Libya’s new government, adding another foreign policy misstep to his stumbling presidential campaign.
The week opened with Cain struggling to answer whether he supported President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in Libya. He ended his week trying to blame reporters for the moment, which was captured on video and quickly spread around the Internet.
Cain’s critics seized on Monday’s incoherent answer as the latest evidence that the former pizza executive is unprepared to be the GOP’s nominee. Then Cain gave his critics another foreign policy error on video Friday.
“Do I agree with siding with the opposition? Do I agree with saying that (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country where you’ve got Taliban and al-Qaida that’s going to be part of the government?” Cain asked reporters in Orlando. “Do I agree with not knowing the government was going to — which part was he asking me about? I was trying to get him to be specific and he wouldn’t be specific.”
The United States invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the al-Qaida-harboring Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Taliban were ousted from power in Afghanistan and are now scattered in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There is no evidence the Taliban are rising to power in Libya, a continent away.
Islamic extremists in Libya, however, could play a role in the new government. U.S. officials are concerned that the former insurgents who have renounced extremism may have ties to al-Qaida leadership.
The error comes as Cain is trying to reassure his supporters that he has the foreign policy background the presidency requires.
“My overriding philosophy relative to national security and foreign policy is an extension of the Reagan philosophy. Peace through strength,” Cain said in Iowa this week. “We need to clarify our relationship with friends and enemies around the world and make sure we stand with our friends.”
It was a clearer explanation than he offered a day earlier in Milwaukee.
Cain hesitated when asked Monday whether he agreed with Obama’s decision to back Libyan rebels in overthrowing Gadhafi. The longtime Libyan dictator was killed last month.
“I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason,” Cain said in the videotaped interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Uh, nope that’s, that’s a different one,” said Cain, who fidgeted in his chair and crossed his legs. “See, I got to go back, see, got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically what are you asking me, did I agree or not disagree with Obama?”
The video ricocheted around the Internet.
Two days later, he skipped a similar meeting with reporters at the New Hampshire Union Leader, the largest paper in the state that holds the first primary contest.
Cain’s campaign has been going through a rocky stretch that began with questions about his loyalty to opposing abortion rights — a problem for influential evangelicals in Iowa. But that issue was quickly eclipsed by the sexual harassment allegations involving former subordinates when he headed the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Four women say Cain harassed them. He denies the allegations.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.