The five-minute video posted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel soon rocketed across the blogosphere and was linked repeatedly with the tag #cainwreck on Twitter.
“Okay, Libya,” Cain said before rolling his eyes up and pausing to gather his thoughts after being asked if he agreed or disagreed with Obama’s response.
“President Obama supported the uprising. Correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gaddafi. Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, ‘yes I agree’ or no I didn’t agree,” he said.
“I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason – no that’s a different one,” the flummoxed Republican contender continued, adding he’s “got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”
Cain’s inability to answer a direct and relatively simple foreign policy question stunned some pundits, who soon began debating whether it was a more serious gaffe than rival Rick Perry’s “oops” moment at a debate last week, when the Texas governor forgot the third federal department he wanted to shut down.
The gaffe comes as Cain is fighting to keep his campaign on track amid a spiraling sexual harassment scandal.
The former head of the Godfather’s Pizza chain, who has never before held elected office, had been polling a tight second to win the Republican nomination.
But at least one opinion poll on Monday showed him sliding in the public’s standing, after two steady weeks of media scrutiny over allegations he sexually harassed various women while at the helm of a Washington, DC trade lobby group during the 1990s.
Cain on Monday explained that his inability to provide a “yes or no answer” to the newspaper’s editorial board was because he’s a “deliberate decision maker.”
“Some people say as president you’re supposed to know everything. No you don’t,” Cain said.
“I believe in having all the information, as much of it as I possibly can, rather than making a decision or statement about whether I totally agree or disagree when I wasn’t privy to the situation.
“I’m not trying to hedge on the question. That’s my nature as a businessman,” he continued. “I need to know the facts as much as possible. I need to hear all the alternatives.”
Cain ultimately answered the editors’ questions on Libya by saying he “would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is” than Obama had.
He also questioned the president’s “assessment” of the situation, but said he could not comment on whether Obama had properly sized up the Libya situation because “I didn’t see reports of that assessment.”