GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain may not be able to name the leaders of foreign countries, but that doesn’t mean leaders of foreign countries don’t know who Cain is.
The New York Times reports that in a meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Karzai raised comments made by Cain proudly professing ignorance about Uzbekistan and mocking the country’s name. Cain said a few weeks ago he didn’t know the “president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan,” then categorized the Central Asian country — a crucial supply route in the U.S.-led war to support Karzai’s government in Afghanistan — as “small and insignificant.”
The Times reports that in Karzai’s meeting with Clinton:
Mr. Karzai was asking Mrs. Clinton about remarks Mr. Cain made recently in a television interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. […]
“He’s a former pizza company owner,” she said to Mr. Karzai.
“Is he that?” He replied, speaking in English.
“Oh, yes. He started something called Godfather’s pizza,” she said.
“Yes, I see, I see,” Mr. Karzai said.
Mrs. Clinton then turned to the American ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, and went on, laughingly. “The president was saying he saw a news clip about how Mr. Cain had said I don’t even know the names of all these presidents of all these countries, you know, like whatever …”
“All the ’stans whatever,” Mr. Karzai interjected, referring to the countries of Central and Southern Asia, including his.
“All the ’stans places,” Mrs. Clinton repeated.
Mr. Karzai did not seem to take offense, displaying what appeared to be an astute understanding of campaigning in a democratic country. “That wasn’t right,” he said, “but anyway, that’s how politics are.”
Cain later laughed off his Uzbekistan comment, bizarrely blaming liberal African-American commenters Harry Belafonte and Cornel West for not “want(ing) a lot of people to wake up, especially black people.”
After a series of gaffes like the “Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan” comment, Cain’s faced scathing criticism about his foreign policy bona fides. But he still insists that he’s “not as foreign policy dumb as they think,” and that really he is just lying in wait to — at some undetermined time in the future — wow everyone with knowledge from his months of studying crucial international issues.
But if his statements are so outlandish that even foreign leaders are picking up on them and declaring, “That wasn’t right,” a potential future President Cain may already be causing relationships with U.S. allies to deteriorate.