Apparently “not content to go out with a whimper,” Cain has turned his campaign into “a spectacular series of blunders.” The most damaging may be his recent inability to answer an open-ended question about President Obama’s Libya policy, but that isn’t Cain’s only puzzling verbal flub. Here, a look at nine of Cain’s not-so-greatest hits:
1. The Libya brain freeze
Quote: “OK, Libya. [pause] President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gadhafi. I just wanted to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, ‘Yes, I agreed’ or ‘No I didn’t agree.’ I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason — nope, that’s a different one. [pause] I gotta go back and see. I got all this stuff twirling around in my head. Specifically, what are you asking me that I agree or not disagree with Obama?” (Nov. 14, in response to a question from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board)
Reaction: “I don’t think Herman Cain is stupid,” says Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy. But after this “painful to watch” Libya exchange, it’s “manifestly obvious” that he’s “willfully ignorant about anything to do with foreign policy.”
2. The off-topic response
Quote: “9-9-9.” (Nov. 14, evading a question from NBC’s Andrew Rafferty over whether Cain’s “Libya gaffe builds on the idea he doesn’t have in-depth knowledge of foreign policy”)
Reaction: Cain is responding to “a serious question about his depth of knowledge and preparedness for office with a non sequitur,” and not even a very good one, says Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post. Some of my media colleagues may not feel comfortable hammering an “ignoramus,” but “I have no such qualms.” Cain’s “time in the big leagues is drawing to a close.”
3. The anti-intellectual rhyme
Quote: “We need a leader, not a reader.” (Nov. 17, campaign stop in Nashua, New Hampshire)
Reaction: Besides the obvious issues with the anti-book sentiment, says Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo, Cain actually lifted this line from the fictionalized “President Schwarzenegger” in The Simpsons Movie. And that stings, says The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball, because “all along, Cain has been a sort of cartoon version of a presidential candidate, entertaining, silly, and preposterously exaggerated.”
4. The imagined language
Quote: “How do you say ‘delicious’ in Cuban?” (Nov. 16, campaign stop in Miami’s “Little Havana” neighborhood)
Reaction: “There are Cuban sandwiches, there are Cuban cigars, but there is no Cuban language,” says Sara Gilford at The Daily Beast. Sure, Cain was just trying to indulge in the local culture, but “if the Cain train doesn’t make it to the White House, [perhaps] it can head to Cuba for some linguistic invention.”
5. The ice cream pejorative
Quote: “Michele Bachmann… I’m not going to say it. I’m not going to say it…. Tutti-frutti. I know I’m going to get in trouble!” (Mid-October, responding to a GQ writer’s request that he liken his rivals to ice-cream flavors)
Reaction: This all started when Sarah Palin called Cain a “flavor of the week,” and he countered that he was more substantial, like Häagen-Dazs’ (long discontinued) Black Walnut, notes The Daily Beast‘s Gilford. Calling Bachmann “tutti-frutti” may not endear Cain to women, but to be fair, he does demonstrate an impressive “knack for needling his Republican primary opponents with ice cream flavors,” says Tim Mak at Politico. Mitt Romney is “plain vanilla,” and Rick Perry is “rocky road.” Ouch.
6. The Pokémon poet
Quote: “A poet once said, ‘Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line.’” (Aug. 11 Republican debate)
Reaction: On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that little bit of inspirational fluff, says Dan Amira at New York. But then “you Google the quote and you realize that these words of wisdom were uttered not by a poet, but by disco queen Donna Summer in her song ‘The Power of One,’” an obscure number she recorded for Pokémon: The Movie 2000.
7. The “sissy pizza”
Quote: “The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is…. Because the more manly man is not afraid of abundance…. A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables! He would call that a sissy pizza.” (Mid-October GQ interview)
Reaction: “On the spectrum of offensive terms,” says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon, “sissy” isn’t “high-threat-level incendiary.” But employing a word that’s used “primarily as an adjective for all things swishy and supergay, and secondarily as ‘just not quite Chuck Norris-level manly,” betrays “a certain grotesqueness of character.” What Cain’s “cheap shot” is apparently saying is, “I’m so insecure about my gender identity I have to go looking for it in the toppings on a pizza.”
8. The royal Pelosi insult
Quote: “We didn’t hear about it in the previous Congress because Princess Nancy sent to it committee and it stayed there.” (Nov. 9 Republican debate, referencing a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act)
Reaction: Calling the “highest-ranking female official in U.S. history” princess is “clueless,” says Melinda Henneberger at The Washington Post. Even if you “ignore the fact that the term ‘princess’ is only socially acceptable for those with the last name Middleton,” says The Daily Beast‘s Gilford, it’s kind of shocking “how long Cain stood by the joke,” given his weakness with female voters.
9. The mangled nation
Quote: “I’m ready for the ‘gotcha’ questions and they’re already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know? And then I’m going to say, ‘How’s that going to create one job?’” (Oct. 7 interview with CBN News‘ David Brody)
Reaction: Cain’s boastful ignorance of this key, mercurial U.S. military ally was “so outlandish that even foreign leaders are picking up on [it],” says Ali Gharib at ThinkProgress. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai brought up the Uzbekistan comment with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and they had a good laugh at Cain’s expense.
This story was originally published by The Week on November 18, 2011