CBS Interrogates Cain on Wife's Feelings, Defense Knowledge

CBS's Bob Schieffer led his interview of Herman Cain on Tuesday's Early Show by asking, "Why did you accept the invitation?" Cain must have been wondering that himself by the end of the segment, as Schieffer and Norah O'Donnell conducted a hostile interrogation of the entrepreneur, pressing him about his qualifications to be secretary of defense, and even asked about the state of his marriage.

The Face the Nation host, filling in as CBS transitions to its new morning show lineup, noted how someone at his network "had the idea...why don't we ask Herman Cain to come on?...Well, of all things he said, yes." Schieffer then turned to the former GOP presidential candidate and asked his "why accept the invitation" question, adding, "Do you have something you want to tell us this morning? Are you going to endorse a candidate? What brings you to television this morning?"

After some initial back and forth between Cain and the journalists, O'Donnell proceeded to reference the sexual harassment accusations against the Republican: "It is interesting that you bring up the question of truthfulness because what drove you from the campaign were questions about your own truthfulness, in terms of your relationship with women. I do want to ask you this morning, how is your wife?"

The former candidate replied, "My wife is doing marvelous, thank you. We were blessed to have our fourth grandchild on New Year's Day. So, 2012 has gotten off to a great start for my wife and I. She is doing fine because, since I got out of the race, we don't have to constantly hear the spinning and the re-spinning of those false accusations." O'Donnell and Schieffer then launched their joint barrage at Cain, casting doubt on his ability to be defense secretary:

O'DONNELL: Mr. Cain, I know you've said in some recent interviews that if a Republican were to defeat Barack Obama, you would be interested in serving in the next administration as secretary of defense. That is a big job, to serve as secretary of defense. I just want to ask you a couple questions. You had some mistakes on the campaign trail. You were confused about the Taliban. You said that you thought that the Taliban might take control in Libya. You know that the Taliban are not in Libya, correct?

CAIN: Correct, Norah. Look, it's a learning process, and there are a lot of things that I have learned as a result of having been in the campaign, as well as after the campaign. Now, the reason that I indicated that I would consider being secretary of defense- I don't think that my qualifications to be the secretary of defense should be based upon something that I said months ago in error. No, it should be based upon leadership. National security is one of our biggest challenges that we have in this country, and I believe that as a leader in that position- if we have the right president- I would be able to bring a lot to the party, in terms of helping to prioritize those things that need to be prioritized.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Cain, wouldn't you have to start out being kind of fairly familiar with what the basic national security issues are? I mean, you, throughout the campaign, seemed unaware of a lot of the things that the secretary of defense would have to deal with. I mean, good intentions are one thing and bringing fresh insight. But do you really sincerely feel that you have the background and, really, the knowledge, that you could handle a cabinet-level position like that?

CAIN: Bob, allow me to remind you something that didn't get picked up when I was beat up about what I didn't know. I served on the citizens advisory board of the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska, for several years when I was there. I was exposed to some of those issues at that particular time. I started my career as a ballistics analyst with the Department of the Navy. I've actually been on a navy ship. So, I have been around some of these issues. So, it's not that I'm totally-

SCHIEFFER: Well, sir, if I may interrupt. I have been on a navy ship, too, but I don't think that qualifies me to be secretary of defense.

CAIN: Bob, I didn't say that qualified me to be secretary of defense. There you go, flyspecking one of the things that I mentioned, when I'm trying to make a point. That's not the point, Bob. I didn't say being on a ship one time qualified me for being secretary of defense. My point is quite simply this: we need strong leadership in that position, and it was a hypothetical question, and I gave a response based upon the question that was asked.

At the end of interview, the CBS White House correspondent played gotcha with Cain by asking him to give the size of the U.S. military. The Republican called her out in his answer:

O'DONNELL: Okay. Simple question: how many people serve in the armed services?

CAIN: We have about 3 million people who serve in the armed services. Was that a gotcha question, Norah?

O'DONNELL: Yeah. We have about 1.6 who are active duty and about 2 million total if you include reservists who are part of our armed services. Herman Cain, thank you so much for joining us. Good to see you. We appreciate it.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.