South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told The Daily Caller on Tuesday that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has to demonstrate he’s knowledgeable enough on national security issues so voters will know “he’s ready for the job.”
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee whose state holds the first primary contest in the South, made the comments in response to video of Cain struggling this week to articulate a position on Libya, which has raised questions about the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza fluency in foreign affairs.
“He’s going to have to convince people that he’s conversant in foreign policy and knows the world well enough to be commander in chief,” Graham said Tuesday outside the main Senate chamber.
Yet Graham also defended Cain’s performance in the interview, saying “every candidate has these bumps.”
During an editorial board meeting Monday with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Cain admitted he was confused when asked how he differed with President Obama on the United States’ role in Libya: “I got all this stuff twirling around in my head,” Cain told the paper.
After several extended pauses, Cain went on to lay out a position. His campaign later blamed Cain’s slow response on lack of sleep.
Asked if conservatives should be uneasy about Cain’s lack of experience and apparent lack of depth in foreign affairs, Graham said he thought Cain “did well at the debate” in South Carolina last week on national security.
“I think it’s up to him to prove to conservatives and everyone else that he’s up to the task,” Graham said. “I think he’s a good man. I think he’s a smart guy. Got a lot of good business experience. Understands that this is one area he hasn’t had a lot of experience in, so the next time he talks about foreign policy, I would expect him to learn from this episode.”
Other Republican senators were mum on the issue when pressed by TheDC.
“I didn’t see it,” Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk said when asked about the video of Cain’s Milwaukee interview.
And 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, a Senator from Arizona, wouldn’t touch on the issue, expressing frustration at being peppered with questions about the 2012 contest from multiple reporters.
“I don’t address the candidates,” McCain said, before getting on an elevator.
Last month, Cain’s campaign told TheDC that plans plans were in the works for Cain to deliver a major address on foreign policy, laying out specific plans for Afghanistan and other international challenges.
Asked Tuesday about that speech, campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon said in an email: “I’ll keep you posted.”
Up until now, Cain — a former businessman who has never held elective office — has benefited from an electorate more concerned about the economy than about foreign affairs.
Graham said he’s glad national security is finally making its way back into the national conversation.
“The good news for me is foreign policy is starting to matter,” he said.