KABUL, Afghanistan — The Republican presidential race echoes even in Kabul.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took a rare shot at one of the Republican party’s ascendant candidates on Thursday, poking fun at Herman Cain over his suggestion that he didn’t need to bother learning the names of leaders of obscure foreign countries.
Clinton was chatting casually with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as the two posed for news photographers when the topic turned to Cain and his unusually frank comments in an interview the week before. Cain’s mocking reference to Afghanistan’s neighbor Uzbekistan — and his assertion that he didn’t need to know details about “insignificant” countries — made an impression on the Afghan leader, Clinton said.
“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,” Clinton said, with an exaggerated wave of her hands.
“All the ‘Stans, whatever,” Karzai chimed in, as both laughed.
Turning more serious, Karzai added: “This is not right. But that’s how politics are.”
In an interview last week with a Christian Broadcasting Network reporter, Cain was asked if he was prepared for “gotcha” questions on foreign policy. Cain replied that he would have no problem admitting what he didn’t know.
“When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you?” he said in the videotaped interview. Then he added: “Knowing who is the head of some of these small insignificant sates around the world – I don’t think that is something that is critical to focusing on national security and getting this economy going.”
You can watch the video here:
Cain has good reason to think he might be pressed on the names of foreign leaders.
More than a decade ago now, another Republican candidate, by the name of George W. Bush, got similarly quizzed. He didn’t fare particularly well.