On Monday's Today show, substitute host Savannah Guthrie got snippy with GOP presidential contender Herman Cain as she played up his lack of time in government as a negative and demanded of the former head of the Godfather's pizza chain: "If you were still a CEO, if you were in business, would you hire someone for a key role who had no experience whatsoever in business?"
For his part, Cain jabbed back that his experience as a businessman, away from the Beltway, was exactly what government needed now.
(video after the jump)
Cain asserted: "If you look at any successful businessperson...they learn how to solve problems. Work on the right problems, surround yourself with the right people, and then make sure you put together the right plans. That's not happening in Washington, D.C."
However Guthrie would not let go of her attack line that Cain was too inexperienced to run for president as she huffed: "You've acknowledged that you have no foreign policy experience. And, in fact, you've minimized the importance of it saying it's something you can learn about later or you will just listen to experts. At a time this country is in two wars, is that sufficient?"
Cain countered that he has been consulting with former intelligence and military experts but then went on to insist: "You don't need foreign policy experience to know who your friends are and who your enemies are, you don't need foreign policy experience to know that you don't tell your enemy what your next move is."
The following is the full interview with Cain as it was aired on the July 4 Today show:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Alright, NBC's Kristen Welker at the White House. Thank you. Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain is with us now from Philadelphia. Mr. Cain, good morning. Thank you for being with us.
[On screen headline: "Race For The White House, Can Herman Cain Take On GOP Frontrunners?"]
HERMAN CAIN: Good morning, Savannah. It's my pleasure, thank you.
GUTHRIE: Well you've been getting some momentum as of late. The recent Iowa poll from last week has you third behind Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann. Simple question to you: what is your message and why is it resonating?
CAIN: My message is common sense solutions and problem solving. I spent all of my career as a problem solver in business, and the reason that it's resonating is because the American people are saying -- and I've gotten this from all over the country – that they are ready for some solutions, rather than creating more problems. And the fact that I have been a problem solver in business, in various different types of businesses, that's resonating with people. They are rejecting the fact or rejecting the old notion that you must have had held public office in order to do a good job in leading this nation.
GUTHRIE: Well I wanted to ask you about that-
GUTHRIE: -because you said essentially your inexperience, the fact that you have never been elected-
GUTHRIE: -and never held public office is a plus. My question to you is, if you were still a CEO, if you were in business, would you hire someone for a key role who had no experience whatsoever in business?
CAIN: In business we hire people at a level based upon their experience and based upon their qualifications. And then they are able to work their way up and demonstrate their problem solving capabilities. That's what happens in business. And if you look at any successful businessperson, in any successful business, they learn how to solve problems. Work on the right problems, surround yourself with the right people, and then make sure you put together the right plans. That's not happening in Washington, D.C.
GUTHRIE: You think-
CAIN: The American, the American people, Savannah, they like the idea that I'm a problem solver and not a politician.
GUTHRIE: Well you've acknowledged that you have no foreign policy experience. And, in fact, you've minimized the importance of it saying it's something you can learn about later or you will just listen to experts. At a time this country is in two wars, is that sufficient?
CAIN: I wouldn't say that's sufficient. And I want to make one correction. I'm not waiting until I get elected. I'm already talking to national security people, former intelligence people, talking to former generals and people in the military to begin to develop ideas about how I would deal with those crises that we're in. So, no, I'm not minimizing that. But here's one thing. You don't need foreign policy experience to know who your friends are and who your enemies are, a you don't need foreign policy experience to know that you don't tell your enemy what your next move is. So I'm not minimizing it. I'm already working on getting up to speed on that topic.
GUTHRIE: Some of the statements you've made have been controversial. I want to ask you about something you said recently. You said that the liberal establishment is scared, that, quote, "a real black man might run against President Obama." What did you mean by that?
CAIN: Well what I meant by that, in the mode of a Martin Luther King Jr., a real black man that can be decisive. A real black man that has leadership experience. A real black man that understands how to address the right problems. And a real black man that understands that the business sector is the engine to growing this economy. Right now we do not have that leadership in the White House.
GUTHRIE: Herman Cain, we've got to leave it there. We're out of time. It's good to have you with us today, sir. Thank you.