Certain GOP presidential candidates, such as Herman Cain, need to "step up their game" and prove that they know enough about foreign policy to be president, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told The Cable.
"There are individual candidates that need to step up their game," Graham said on Tuesday, when asked about Cain's cringe-worthy interview on Monday with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Libya.
"Each candidate has to demonstrate for the public that they're ready for the job. And no one expects a person who hasn't been commander-in-chief before to know everything about every topic, but Libya? I think it's fair to ask our candidates to articulate a position," Graham said. "Cain has got to convince people that he's got the depth of knowledge [to be president]."
Graham compared Cain's mission to that of candidate Barack Obama in 2007, when people doubted Obama's foreign policy bona fides. In that case, Obama managed to convince the electorate that he had enough foreign-policy knowledge to handle the issues.
Graham, who just wrote a big National Review article on Obama's foreign policy, also said that felt good about the Nov. 12 CBS/National Journal GOP debate on foreign policy, because all of the leading contenders unified around a basically hawkish agenda and didn't succumb to the wing of the GOP that is advocating for more isolationist policies.
"Six months ago, I was worried about this unpopularity of Iraq and Afghanistan changing the party's historical position of shaping the world," Graham said. "After Saturday's debate I feel more reassured that we're going back to the party of Reagan."
"[Jon] Huntsman and Ron Paul have a legitimate view, but it's not the mainstream view of the Republican Party," Graham said. "The national security debate was well received by many [in the GOP]. It was a hawkish debate."
GOP frontrunner Herman Cain has made a number of comments about specific foreign policy issues, but he hasn't yet spelled out his doctrine for restoring U.S. leadership abroad ... until now.
In order to fix what he referred to as America's "foreign foggy policy," Cain told a packed house at the National Press Club today that he would apply the lessons he learned as CEO reviving Godfather's Pizza to U.S. national security issues. Cain noted that Godfather's was about to go bankrupt in 1996 when he joined the organization.
"I had never made a pizza, but I learned. And the way we renewed Godfather's Pizza as a company is the same approach I would use to renew America. And that is: If you want to solve a problem, go to the source closest to the problem and ask the right questions," he said, while the audience dined on cupcakes decorated with pictures of pizzas and the numbers 9-9-9 -- a reference to his much-celebrated plan for tax reform.
Cain went into more detail, explaining that he talked with customers, young workers in the restaurants, managers, assistant managers, the office staff, franchisees, and suppliers. He asked them all why they thought Godfather's Pizza was failing as a business. He then concluded that Godfather's had lost its status as an industry leader because it had tried to do "too much with too little, too fast" -- it lost its focus.
"That's what I believe is America's problem, we have lost our focus. In order to renew that focus, we must address its most pressing problems boldly."
Cain then said his second guiding principle would be to use "foreign policy common sense," which for Cain would mean not announcing the troop withdrawals from Iraq or Afghanistan, and not "send[ing] an e-mail to the enemy about what you are going to do."
He also said he would "listen to the commanders on the ground because they are the closest to the problem." One assumes that this would be the pizza makers?
Cain preempted accusations that he lacked an understanding of U.S. foreign policy. "I don't believe you need to have extensive foreign policy experience if you know how to make sure you're working on the right problems, establishing the right priorities, surround yourself with the right people, which would allow you to put together the plans necessary to solve the problem," he said.
"We have an economic crisis, a national security crisis. We've got an energy crisis, a spending crisis, a foreign foggy policy crisis, a moral crisis, and the biggest crisis we have is a severe deficiency of leadership, in my opinion, in the White House," the GOP presidential hopeful noted. "This is why I believe we need to renew America by fixing the stuff that is broken."
Cain also said that if elected president, he would change the way America doles out foreign aid.
"We need to clarify who our friends are, clarify who our enemies are; and I happen to believe we must stop giving money to our enemies," said Cain.
The only country he identified as a "friend" was Israel. He didn't name any "enemies."
In August, consultant and former Navy officer J.D. Gordon was ready to launch a new foreign policy and national security think tank called the Center for Security and Diplomacy...and then he got a call from Herman Cain.
"We were a few days away from making CSD's website public. Now most of the think tank is being absorbed by the Cain campaign," Gordon told The Cable in an interview. The Cain team saw Gordon on one of his many Fox News appearances, where he served as an expert commentator. He joined the campaign on Sept. 1 as the vice president for communications and senior advisor for foreign policy and national security.
Now, about two months into his time with Cain, Gordon is leading the expansion of the campaign's national security infrastructure, drawing heavily from the think tank he had been developing before Cain brought him on.
Gordon, who served 20 years on active duty in the Navy, worked at the Pentagon from 2005 to 2009 in the public affairs section of the Office of the Secretary of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates. For four years he was, among other things, the Pentagon's lead spokesman on detainee issues and led media tours to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Since leaving government, he has been running a consulting firm with his former business partner Lee Cohen, a former staffer for House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
Now, Gordon is tapping many of the people who were involved in his think tank and consulting firm to support his candidate, who is admittedly not a foreign policy expert -- but says he is reading up on the issues now.
"The central tenets of the Center for Security and Diplomacy were restoring U.S. leadership, maintaining a strong military and getting tough on terrorism," Gordon said. "That matches exactly with Herman Cain's views on foreign policy. His overarching philosophy is an extension of the Reagan doctrine: peace through strength and clarity."
Several of the people who have been involved in CSD have already joined the Cain campaign. Robert Brockhaus, who was community relations manager at the Heritage Foundation and one of the founders of CSD, is now the campaign's assistant vice president for communications and writes "Cain connections," a weekly summary of events that is sent to over 200,000 people. CSD's former vice president for policy and research Matt Martini, a former legislative correspondent for former Rep. Mark Green (R-WI), is the campaign's new assistant vice price for communications handling TV and radio booking.
Mark Pfeifle, who worked with Gordon at the Pentagon and then served as deputy assistant for strategic communications in President George W. Bush's National Security Council, was a CSD board member. He's now senior advisor for the Cain campaign, in charge of rapid response. Expect to see him on television speaking for the campaign more and more in the coming weeks.
Roger Pardo Maurer is another CSD board member who is now advising the Cain campaign. He was deputy assistant secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere from 2001 to 2006 under Rumsfeld, brought in by the late former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security affairs Peter Rodman. He is originally from Costa Rica.
Maurer is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- he did a year-long tour in each country as an enlisted Special Forces reservist. But having attended Yale and Cambridge and being well into his 40s, he wasn't the typical Army private. Rumsfeld personally promoted him to specialist in the field in Afghanistan. He's advising Cain on the wars in the Middle East.
Manny Rosales, another CSD board director, is another new member of the Cain foreign policy team. He was assistant administrator at the Small Business Administration during the Bush presidency, and then served as deputy director of coalitions at the Republican National Committee under Michael Steele, in charge of Hispanic outreach. He's advising Cain on immigration.
On international economics, Cain is taking advice from Joseph Humire, a former Marine and senior fellow at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which works to establish free market think tanks in foreign countries. Humire was an advisor for CSD; Atlas is a client of Gordon's consulting firm.
One way in which Cain's foreign policy team has already shaped the candidate's agenda is by promoting the idea of using the Chilean social security model, a privatization scheme once floated by Bush, as an example for the reform of the U.S. entitlement system.
Cain was even contemplating a trip to Chile, but the schedule doesn't permit it right now, Gordon said.
"People are complaining if we're not in the early primary states, let alone a foreign country," he said.
Gordon and the rest of the foreign policy team work with Clark Barrow, the campaign's coordinator on policy matters. Barrow gives Cain his daily briefing on all domestic and international news. Gordon chips in on most days with one-page briefs on specific foreign policy issues.
The Cain team knows their candidate has some studying to do on foreign policy, but, "once he gets briefed on something he learns and he retains it. He's been getting smarter on foreign policy every day," Gordon said.
There have been some early stumbles, however. Earlier this month, Cain told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he would consider releasing all the prisoners at Guantanamo in a prisoner swap. Gordon attributed the comment to fatigue, the pace of the campaign, and a misunderstanding of Blitzer's question.
And after Cain famously announced this month he did not know the name of the president of "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan," the campaign made up a list of over 20 foreign leaders for Cain to commit to memory.
"He was just trying to make a joke out of the fact that he doesn't know the name of the every world leader right now," Gordon said. "He was trying to disarm that before it was inflated into an issue."
Broadly speaking, Cain's foreign policy stances aren't so different from other leading candidates such as Mitt Romney or Rick Perry. They include a focus on relationships with allies, strong advocacy for maintaining defense spending, impassioned support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and skepticism of providing foreign aid to countries that don't support U.S. policies.
Like Romney and Perry, Cain also doesn't have a lot of foreign policy experience, although he has traveled to 20 countries on six continents, said Gordon. His campaign is aware that travel alone doesn't equal experience, and is using Gordon's connections to make up ground fast.
"The staff is rapidly expanding," Gordon said, acknowledging that the other campaigns have been a bit quicker setting up their foreign policy brain trusts. "It's been about 100 to one, but now we're beefing up."
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John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.