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Herman Cain says he 'misspoke' on considering prisoner transfer

October 18, 2011|By James Oliphant
  • Herman Cain was the subject of several attacks from his GOP rivals at Tuesday's debate in Las Vegas.
Herman Cain was the subject of several attacks from his GOP rivals at Tuesday's… (Ethan Miller / Getty Images )

It was a rough night at the GOP debate in Las Vegas for Herman Cain -- and after the debate it got rougher still.

Cain was asked about remarks he made earlier in the day during a CNN interview about whether he would consider a prisoner exchange involving suspected terrorists jailed at the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and an American soldier, similar to the deal that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit along with more than 1,000 Palestinians.

It has been a longstanding policy of the United States not to negotiate with terrorist groups, but Cain didn't say that.

"I could see myself authorizing that kind of transfer but what I would do is I would make sure that I got all of the information," Cain told CNN before the debate. "I got all of the input, considered all of the options. And then, the president has to be the president and make a judgment call. I can make that call if I had to."

Cain was asked about his comments during the debate, but said he did not recall making them.

"You would have to consider the entire situation. But let me say this first: I would have a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists. We have to lay that principle down first," Cain said. "Now, then you have to look at each individual situation and consider all the facts. The point that I made about this particular situation is that I'm sure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to consider a lot of things before he made that. So on the surface, I don't think we can say he did the right thing or not. A responsible decision-maker would have considered everything."

Rep. Michele Bachmann called Cain's position "naive."

After the debate, Cain told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he "misspoke" during the previous interview and that, as president, he would not consider such a transfer. But the episode likely will provide more fodder to critics who say that Cain lacks a firm grasp of foreign policy.

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