Herman Cain has shot into the lead of the Republican primary race despite articulating no notable foreign policy vision. As a pizza chain executive and motivational speaker, Cain has no experience on foreign policy, although he did tell Fox News’s Sean Hannity that he has “been studying [foreign policy] for months.”
When Cain has said anything noteworthy on foreign policy, it has been to expose his unapologetic ignorance by dismissing the need to know the name of the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan,” or worrying that China—which has had nuclear weapons since 1964—is “trying to develop nuclear capability.” When Cain ventures an opinion, he is prone to making a gaffe and swiftly issuing a retraction, such as when he said he would consider trading all the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay for a captured American.
How can we figure out what a Cain presidency might entail in the foreign policy and national security arena? The Cain campaign’s communications director, J.D. Gordon, served as Western Hemisphere spokesman for the Defense Department from 2005 to 2009. He doubles as Cain’s sole foreign policy adviser. Since 2009 he has been a part time commentator on conservative op-ed pages and Fox News, and he told The New Republic, “I’ve had about fifty columns published over the last year and a half, and so those are a lot of the things that I tell Mr. Cain.”
On that basis it would appear that Cain is getting the same national security advice he would from Dick Cheney. Gordon’s views are reflexively right-wing.
Despite the Obama administration’s notable successes in taking out leading terrorists, Gordon maintained in a Fox News piece that “in contrast to the Bush administration’s record on protecting the public, we are less safe under the Obama administration.” He offers five reasons, two of which are perhaps legitimate concerns but not actually shifts in policy under Obama (the increasing threat of homegrown terrorists and anti-American sentiment that still exists outside the United States). The remaining three are classic Republican bugaboos of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations: “Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament,” “Inability to meaningfully confront Iran,” and “A Change In Policy On Terror Suspects Switching to Prosecution as a Law Enforcement Issue vs. a Military Issue.”
As you might expect, Gordon leaves out the frightening implications of his complaints. Why does he think we need more or better nuclear weapons than everyone else? So that we can win a devastating mutual nuclear exchange? How exactly can one prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons without invading it? Or is it an invasion that he wants? Legally, how would we treat, say, a US citizen caught attempting a terrorist attack on US soil as a military rather than law enforcement issue, and how would that pass constitutional review? Gordon doesn’t say.