Cain re-embraces electric fence

PHOENIX - After first apologizing for suggesting an electric fence along the border, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain told reporters here Monday that he still thinks it's a good idea for controlling illegal immigration.

"I'm not walking away from that," he said.

Cain has spent the last several days explaining a controversial comment about building an electrified fence along the U.S.-Mexico border that he said could kill people trying to enter the country illegally. On Sunday, he said his comments were "a joke." But talking to reporters here after a meeting with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a national reputation for cracking down on illegal immigrants, Cain reversed course.

Initially, Cain apologized when told his remarks had upset some in the state. "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa," he said, using the Latin formula for expressing contrition. But when a reporter challenged his description of his comments, saying he didn't seem to be telling a joke, the retired pizza executive acknowledged: "You're right." He said he still believes in the need for a border fence, "and it might be electrified."

About 45 minutes late for his meeting with Arpaio because of what he said was "harassment," which caused the sheriff's office to deploy an escort, Cain would not discuss the details.

"We received some information that caused us to improve our security on the way over here, and I would like to just leave it at that," Cain told reporters. "When you become a top-tier candidate, a lot of nuts come out of the closet. That's basically what it is."

Cain wasn't the only Republican presidential candidate in Arizona - host of one of the early primary contests - talking immigration here on Monday. Earlier in the day, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., met with Arizona lawmakers and law enforcement officials to discuss border security. Afterwards, she accused both Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry of not being tough enough on the issue.

Without mentioning him by name, Bachmann referenced a controversial statement Perry previously made in which he called a border fence "idiocy."

"I wouldn't call completing the fence 'idiocy,' as has been done in the recent presidential conversations," Bachmann said. "It is important that we actually do complete the fence in every portion."

And she pounced on Cain's suggestions that he had been making a joke about an electrified border fence.

"I also want to say that this is no laughing matter, the border fence," Bachmann said. "We've seen jokes made by presidential candidates about the fence."

Bachmann has been a staunch supporter of building a fence along the entire border between the United States and Mexico, and on Saturday she became the first presidential candidate to sign "The Pledge," a declaration of support for the construction of a border fence created by the national advocacy group Americans for Securing the Border.

Cain, campaigning last week in Tennessee, said he wanted to build an electric fence along the border that would kill those trying to climb it to enter the country illegally. When pressed on the comment Sunday by NBC's David Gregory on Meet the Press, the former Godfather's CEO said of the comment, "That's a joke."

But Bachmann wasn't laughing.

"That was a joke, and this is no laughing matter," she told reporters when asked about Cain's comment. "It's important that we take this issue very seriously in dealing with the fence, as all of the individuals in front of me are doing, they're dealing with it very capably and very seriously."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.