OTR Interviews

Cain's 'Work in Progress' Foreign Policy Put to the Test at GOP Debate

GOP presidential candidate's questionable knowledge of national security and foreign policy tested at debate


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 22, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: GOP candidate Herman Cain trying to change his image tonight to some extent, at least when it comes to national security issues. He's recently had to fend off criticism about his command of foreign policy. So how did he do tonight? Mr. Herman Cain joins us. Good evening, sir. Good to see you again. Welcome.

HERMAN CAIN, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, Martha. Delighted to be with you, thanks.

MACCALLUM: So how did you feel it went tonight? I know recently you said, look, I'm not going to dazzle you with my foreign policy knowledge, and I don't need to know everything about this subject is what you have said.

CAIN: Right.

MACCALLUM: So how did you feel did you this evening?

CAIN: I believe that I did fairly well. And whenever I finish a debate, I get an honest assessment from my staff. And their assessment agreed with mine, because over the last several months, Martha, I have been doing a lot of homework. I have had some consultants and advisory with four people who were assistant department of defense secretaries. I met with two former ambassadors. I have talked and been briefed by three or four generals. So I have a much better knowledge base in terms of shaping my perspective now than I had, say, two months ago. So it's a work in process but I felt real good about tonight.

MACCALLUM: It's interesting, looking across the polls, and I have been doing this with all the candidates I have spoken with tonight, in New Hampshire you are at 8.5 percent. In Iowa you are at 19 percent, have held on to a pretty decent position in Iowa. In South Carolina you have held on to your lead there. So I'm imagining that you are hoping that two candidates will split Iowa and New Hampshire and if you come up with South Carolina you will be in a pretty good spot.

CAIN: Exactly. And we happen to believe that we are going to hold on to the lead, the number that we have in Iowa. In fact, we believe that we can build upon it. As you know, Governor Romney has such a big lead in New Hampshire, we are going to work hard to make sure kind of close that gap. But in Iowa and South Carolina and Florida, we are very optimistic. Like you said, those numbers show that my support base is holding.

MACCALLUM: All right, let's get back to domestic issues and the numbers. We all watched what happened in the super committee, it fell apart. So that leaves us with sort of no recourse for the time being in terms of any real tax reform or cuts in the budget or resolution in terms of the economy.

And the president was out speaking about this today. And he wants to get part of his jobs bill measure passed that he believes will be beneficial to getting some money back in people's pockets. And here's just a piece of what he had to say. If you listen to this, I want to get your response.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress refuses to act then middle class families are going to get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. For the average family your taxes will go up $1,000 if Congress does not act by the end of the month. Now, we can't let that happen. Not right now.


MACCALLUM: So what do you think about the way he's attacking this problem?

CAIN: Martha, it is disappointing that the president is being disingenuous, quite frankly, with the American people. What he's not talking about is that if they don't pass something to extend the current tax rates that they keep calling the Bush tax cuts, everybody is going to be hit with a tax increase.

Secondly, the piece that he's talking about is relative to the payroll tax. A lot of people didn't even feel it the last time they did it.

This is another example of nibbling around the edges. This economy is on life support. And rather than deal with a serious solution about how we get everybody's income up because the economy is growing and because 14 million people will get back to work, he is playing class warfare talking about if Congress doesn't act, what it will do to the middle class family. It is the same old tax issue.

MACCALLUM: I'm curious what you would do. Let's fast forward for a moment as every candidate in your shoes would like to do at this point and let's assume you are running against President Obama. What would you say to him, because he's gotten a lot of criticism with the super committee for not getting more involved? What would you like to say to him if you were on the stage with him tonight but how he has handled this issue, the Super Committee issue?

CAIN: Let's back up a little bit. First of all, I wouldn't have had a Super Committee. We have 222 committees in Congress right now.

Here is what I would have done. I would have gotten the leaders of both houses of Congress together, both the majority and the minority, and sit down and then using the leadership -- that's what leadership is supposed to be about. And as president I would have gotten the leaders from both parties in both rooms in a room without all the advisors and say, "Look, we've got to do something."

Secondly, I would have put a plan on the table.

MACCALLUM: But hold on one second. So just, you know, you are going to get both sides in the room and the Democrats are going to look at you and say we aren't going for anything unless you allow us to increase taxes on the wealthiest people in this nation. What do you say?

CAIN: Well, that by itself, Martha, isn't enough to say yes or no, because if you don't solve the problem they keep hanging on. We aren't going to allow you to reduce taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on and on and on.

Here's the other thing I would do at president. I will expose the Democrats class warfare line. Every time they want to do something they start talking about taxes on the rich. I have a break news announcement. There are rich and they are going to stay rich. I want other people to get rich, which is why I totally want to replace the tax code and replace it with something that would give everybody an opportunity. I would debunk the whole class warfare card that some people are falling for at step one, and then be honest and truthful with the people.

MACCALLUM: All right, Mr. Cain, as always, very good to talk to you this evening. Thanks for being with us tonight.

CAIN: Thank you, Martha. Enjoyed it.