Herman Cain Unaware That China Has Nuclear Weapons?

I’m sure his campaign will just say he “misspoke,” but one segment of Herman Cain’s Monday appearance on PBS’s Newshour is getting some attention this morning:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you view China as a potential military threat to the United States?

HERMAN CAIN: I do view China as a potential military threat to the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what could you do as president to head that off?

HERMAN CAIN: My China strategy is quite simply outgrow China. It gets back to economics. China has a $6 trillion economy and they’re growing at approximately 10 percent. We have a $14 trillion economy — much bigger — but we’re growing at an anemic 1.5, 1.6 percent. When we get our economy growing back at the rate of 5 or 6 percent that it has the ability to do, we will outgrow China.

And secondly, we already have superiority in terms of our military capability, and I plan to get away from making cutting our defense a priority and make investing in our military capability a priority, going back to my statement: peace through strength and clarity. So yes they’re a military threat. They’ve indicated that they’re trying to develop nuclear capability and they want to develop more aircraft carriers like we have. So yes, we have to consider them a military threat.


One can, perhaps, be generous to Cain here and say that he was meaning to say that the Chinese are trying to improve their nuclear capability, which is most certainly true. However, Cain’s odd comments here are of a piece with other odd comments that he has made about foreign policy that make one wonder just how much he pays attention to the subject. There comes a point where you’ve made enough gaffes that you’re not entitled to the benefit of the doubt any more.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. BleevK says:

    Let’s elect Krusty the clown!

  2. Mark says:

    I’m sorry. Maybe I’m being incredibly naive but I just can’t believe he really doesn’t know this. He can’t be that unknowledgeable can he?

  3. Kit says:

    Maybe he meant to say “deliver,” or “deploy,” or “divulge” even. That’s the sort of thing for his advisors to decide.

  4. Rick Almeida says:


    He doesn’t have to know anything about Uz-china-china-na-na-na-na-na-na-hey-hey-hey-goodbye-stan-stan.

    He gets a 1-page briefing every day FROM EXPERTS that he often reads.

  5. sam says:


    Maybe he meant to say “deliver,” or “deploy,” or “divulge” even.


    They’ve indicated that they’re trying to divulge nuclear capability

    Trying, but they’ve been struck with aphasia?

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Just proving he’s a typical American.

  7. Kit says:


    Sam, I’m only trying to throw out a few lifelines.

  8. Rob in CT says:

    The charitable interpretation is that he means the Chinese are working on better delivery systems.

    I’m not feeling charitable when it comes to Herman Cain.

  9. Franklin says:

    Wow, this guy sounds like beautiful music to the ears of fat cat military contractors. I guess I was under the mistaken impression that we spent enough on military, roughly half the total world expenditures. Nope, says Cain, that is just plain not enough.

    P.S. I’m not actually that concerned with his slip-of-the-tongue or brainfart or whatever it was. I think we already kind of knew that international relations is not his strong suit.

  10. matt b says:

    Screw the nuclear stuff… we should be concerned that Cain seriously thinks its possible in the short term to “out pace” China’s rate of growth. Considering they have a (a) centrally controlled and governmentally protected economy (the exact opposite of the radical neo-liberal free market Cain lurves), (b) are in the process of transitioning from a 19th century infrastructure to a 21th century infrastructure, (c) have little to no regulatory controls (and therefore allow some of the ‘dirtiest’ capitalism possible, and (d) have a huge untapped consumer/consumption base coming online inside the country (to match their consumer base outside the country)…

    Simply put, there is no lever (or levers) available to the president(*) to allow us to outgrow China (or India) in the near terms. We have to recognize that for the near term, the developing world is going to do exactly that… develop (including with the help of a number of “America” corporations).

    * – I guess the president could use the CIA to help jump-start a Chinese Civil war. Alternatively, Cain could decimate the American states… bomb us back to the reconstruction era… and then refocus the country on “modernization” projects.

  11. matt b says:

    BTW… for those tracking, with the exception of one outlying year (under Carter!) we haven’t had a 10% growth rate since the 60’s. Neither Regan nor Bubbles got us to that point…

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:


    I guess I was under the mistaken impression that we spent enough on military, roughly half the total world expenditures

    I always say that as “We spend as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.” Means the same, but somehow paints a much more vivid picture of our stupidity.

  13. lou91940 says:

    when I write stuff I usually get to edit it a lot before posting……and when i later read it I still find things that I didn’t present as well as I could have, self editing is not a good idea.

    when I speak off the cuff in a give and take fast moving conversation, words and ideas don’t always come out as intended, it takes some in depth conversation to make a statement properly understood.

    I’m pretty sure Cain knows the Chinese have nuclear weapons. Saying they are trying to develop nuclear capabilities was maybe better said as extending those capabilities with aircraft carriers and an undersea blue water navy etc.

    I’m not a Cain supporter or voter in his party…..but endless nit picking and parsing ???

    Though for a guy who makes a living as a motivational speaker…he isn’t very good at give and take interviews.

  14. john personna says:

    But hey, he’s willing to say OWS protesters are lazy and shiftless. That’s worth something.

  15. anjin-san says:

    OWS protesters are lazy and shiftless.

    I think you know as well as I that they are lazy, shiftless, AND… they have sex.

    Mr. Cain is appalled. The tea party is appalled. What is our country coming to?