Moral Low Ground


Herman Cain Doesn’t Know that China has Nuclear Weapons

As if things weren’t bad enough already for Herman Cain…

The Republican presidential candidate was considered by many to be the GOP front runner right up through this past weekend. And who knows, maybe he still is in some polls. But with a growing sexual harassment scandal (a third woman now says she’s considering filing a complaint against him) and alleged campaign finance improprieties, those arrows in his back that Cain once welcomed with Bush-like “bring ’em” braggadocio are now beginning to sting like hell.

It may be impossible to shoot arrows in your own back, but Cain certainly fired one through his foot last evening when he appeared on the “PBS News Hour” and once again displayed a shocking ignorance of foreign affairs. When host Judy Woodruff asked him about the threat posed by China, this is what he said:

China detonated this atomic bomb nearly 50 years ago. (Photo: Max Smith)

“Yes, they’re a military threat, they’ve indicated that they’re trying to develop nuclear capabilities, so yes, we have to consider them a military threat.”

For the record, China detonated its first nuclear bomb way back in 1964, the year after Cain graduated from high school. The People’s Republic currently has around 200 such weapons, some of them sitting atop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of destroying American cities. You’d think a national security-minded Republican would know such things. Apparently Cain didn’t.

But hey, the guy admits he doesn’t know much about the world outside of the United States. When asked who the President of Uzbekistan was , Cain said this:

“I’m ready for the ‘gotcha’ questions and they’re already starting to come, and 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 know?”

Actually, I do. He’s the wicked Islam Karimov who, despite boiling dissidents alive, has received half a billion dollars in U.S. aid and visits from top American officials. If he wants to be President, Cain really ought to know these things.

But instead of recognizing this, Cain has been very dismissive about his lack of international knowledge. “Relative to foreign policy, I don’t need to know the details of every one of the issues we face,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of experts who can fill in the details.”

Cain’s flippancy is symptomatic of a much deeper problem in America, a land where people are notoriously ignorant about the world around them. A 2002 National Geographic survey revealed that 11% of college-age Americans couldn’t even find the United States on a map!

But instead of being alarmed by this shocking ignorance, many Americans celebrate it. The implications are frightening. Witness these lyrics from Alan Jackson’s post-9/11 country music anthem “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”:

I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God

Not knowing the difference between Iraq and Iran probably doesn’t matter much to millions of Americans, just as “talking to God” is considered a virtue, not proof that someone needs to have their head examined. Such is life in these United States, and it just might not make one bit of difference whether or not Herman Cain knows that China has nuclear weapons or who the President of Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan is. After all, if we valued intellectual prowess in our leaders, we’d have never elected Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. Cain may very well be okay. There’s only one flag he really needs to know to satisfy conservative voters, and I’m sure he’s wearing it on his lapel as I write this. As long as he knows Jesus and talks to God, and realizes that God loves Israel and hates Palestinians, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea– and sometimes Europe, Cain’s pretty much got all the worldly knowledge he needs to win Republican hearts and votes.


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  1. HollyNovember 11, 2011 at 8:50 amReply

    Well written article. I had heard about Cain’s ignorance, but I’m very impressed with the way you presented your argument for why it is so very unacceptable.

    • Brett WilkinsNovember 11, 2011 at 9:29 amReplyAuthor

      Thank you very much for reading, Holly.

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