In Conference with Herman Cain

| March 14, 2011 | 14 Replies

I had the chance to sit in tonight on a blogger conference call with potential 2012 Presidential candidate Herman Cain. It shouldn’t surprise any long-time readers of The Shack when I say I’m a fan of Cain’s as a candidate and as a person. Though he has yet to announce his candidacy, he has formed an exploratory committee and has visited several of the early primary and caucus states to gauge interest in a run and to lay some groundwork if he decides to do so.

I had hoped to connect to the call with Skype and record it, so I could pull out some of the better quotes at leisure, but I couldn’t make that happen (mostly because I didn’t want to spend money for Skype’s premium call functions). I did, however, give my transcription skills one heck of a workout and captured a few good Cain quotes. I’ll drop them below the jump. I’ve done my very best to quote Mr. Cain as accurately as conditions would allow. I have only included quotes I am reasonably certain I captured accurately. In many cases, that means I left some very good stuff behind because I couldn’t write down everything he said.

First, let me give you a couple little tidbits I did not know about Cain that you might not know either. He graduated college with majors in Mathematics and Physics and earned a Masters Degree in Computer Science. Let that sink in a little bit. We could have a Presidential nominee who has college degrees in hard sciences (and I just thought of a great question I could have asked. D’oh, stupid Jimmie!) instead of the normal Political Science or International Relations or Business Administration degrees we too often see. I don’t know what that says to you, but it tells me that Cain is no dummy. He can sling the brainpower.

I also didn’t know that he took over Godfathers’ Pizza when it was on the verge of bankruptcy and helped turn it around into a profitable business. He’s used to taking on long odds and winning. I’ve a feeling that attitude is going to be very necessary in our next President, whoever that may be.

Okay, so now the quotes, along with some stray impressions and summaries of parts I couldn’t transcribe.

On whether he will run for President: “My toe is no longer in the water. It’s all the way up to my neck.”

On his successes in turning Godfather’s Pizza away from bankruptcy and defeating Stage 4 cancer: “I have beaten the odds in order to achieve what some people thought it would be impossible to achieve.”

On the principle that has guided him to consider a Presidential run: “It’s not about us; it’s about the grandchildren.”

On his name identification among the conservative grassroots: “I have been a consistent Tea Party favorite.”. He went on to say that he enjoyes high name recognition among Tea Parties and the citizens’ movement and he is confident that no GOP candidate will not lose that edge to another candidate.

On what quality is most important to him in a running mate (asked by my friend and fellow podcaster Andrew Lawton): “Pandering is what most politicians do. Leaders tell you the truth.”. Cain said that courage will be the quality he will prize most in whoever seconds him on the GOP ticket in 2012. He also prizes intelligence and said, “A great leader will surround himself with people who might be smarter than him or her”.

On Islam in the United States and the growth in some places of Sharia law: “I will allow, as President of the United States, them to practice their religion all they want. What I won’t allow is them for force their beliefs — their Sharia law — on the rest of us.”

On what he will use to attack the President during the campaign: “His greatest failure is that spending has not stimulated the economy. He has no clue about how you stimulate the economy.” He then went on to outline the five steps he will take right away to help turn the economy around.

  1. Lower the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
  2. Make those tax rates permanent.
  3. Take the capital gains tax rate to zero.
  4. Suspend taxation on repatriated profits — profits made by US companies outside the US that they’d like to bring back to the US.
  5. Provide a full payroll tax holiday to both employers and employees.

On health care: “We have never had a health care problem; we have had a health cost problem.”

He want on to say that he would work to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “patient-centered, free-market reforms”. He cited the Empowering Patients Firs Act (HR3400), submitted by Republican Tom Price in 2009 as the proposal that would form the backbone of what he would want to get done.

On his TARP position: I didn’t get his entire response down, but in a nutshell, he said that when the financial crisis first broke out, he supported the initial “concept” of TARP as a means to “get rid of tarnished assets”.  He was then “disappointed” with how it was later implemented. He commended President Bush for leaving half of TARP for the incoming Obama administration to handle, though he blamed them both for botching the implementation. He “trusted they’d implement the right way. They did not.”

On potential skeletons in his closet: “They’ll find I have a 20 handicap in golf and it never got lower.” “I have an original copy of my birth certificate. I have no illegitimate children, I have no mistresses.”

He knows other candidates are doing opposition research about him and that the Sheriff of the county in which he grew up has already gotten calls from people from other campaigns.

On whether his opponents will use his extensive radio talk show host experience against him: “They’re going to find sound bites they can twist…I have confidence in the public and in my listeners to sift through what is true and what is not.”

On the two lessons he learned from his Senate run in 2006: “1) If I ever run for office again, start early; 2) Hire good people early.”

On how he’ll turn around the US economy: “We are, unfortunately, an entitlement society when we need to be an empowerment society.”

On the battle with public sector unions in Wisconsin: “This nation should be a right to work nation.” He commended Governor Walker for his courage and reminded us that he had been to Wisconsin to support the Governor and the citizens who rallied to his defense.

On my question about how he will deal as President with public sector unions and help Governors to deal with them in their states: “I will not be biased.”

“This President openly supports unions more than [he does] the other 88 percent [of those who do not belong to unions].”

“The American people will elect a President Herman Cain, not the union bosses.”

On whether establishment Republicans will work against him as a candidate: “[Republicans] will not open up their guns against me because they want to win.”

He then said he will be able to go “toe to toe with President Obama and be able to reveal how shallow a leader he is.”

On tax reform and his outspoken support for the Fair Tax: “I am a supporter of the Fair Tax. That’s Stage Two.” That refers to the five economic plans he’ll put into place first that I mentioned earlier in the thread.

“When the people understand the Fair Tax, they’ll demand it.”

On my question about what programs he would move back to the states and localities in order to give them more control of their own affairs: “In order to get back to the empowerment society, we much empower the states.”

That empowerment will take two forms. First, he’ll repeal or correct any program that has unfunded mandates so that states can control their own money. Second, he’ll block grant programs that are currently micromanaged by the Federal government. among those, he specifically mentioned Medicaid and the Education Department.

“You can’t micromanage large programs for fifty states that the states can manage for themselves”

On the Federal Reserve (Note that Cain is a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis): “To the people who want to audit the Fed: Go for it.”

He’s not a defender of the Fed, but he won’t make it an urgent priority ahead of the economy, immigration, national defense, or taxes. The key to the Fed, he said, was to “get it on the right track”. Cain doesn’t think we need to end the Fed (which will not endear him to the hard-core Ron Paul crowd) because thus far there is no viable alternative.

Interestingly, Cain does support putting the United States back on the gold standard, and calls it “a check and balance that will keep Congress from printing money”. There’s a very large caveat to that, though. Before we can do that, he said, we need to take care of the national debt. We can’t even think about going back on gold standard while we owe over 14 trillion dollars. It just won’t work.

And that was all. He and his people (and big love to my friend Ellen Carmichael for the hard work she did to make things run very smoothly) plan to do one of these calls a month. I’m on the list and will get to as many as I can. When I do, I’ll share what I hear!

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